Sequester impact won't be "overnight," but will be real, Obama says

President Obama speaks during an event at Newport News Shipbuilding February 26, 2013 in Newport News, Virginia. Obama painted a devastating picture of looming government budget cuts, at a fabled shipbuilding yard in Virginia that provides the US Navy's nuclear powered aircraft carriers.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The word "sequester" is bad enough, but the effects of the policy -- huge budget cuts set to start Friday -- will be even worse, President Obama warned today.

"The impact of this policy won't be felt overnight, but it will be real," Mr. Obama said at the Newport News Shipbuilding company in Newport News, Va. "The sequester will weaken America's economic recovery, it will weaken our military readiness, and it will weaken the services people depend on."

Virginia's shipyards would see some of the biggest impacts of the sequester, which would cut around $85 billion in federal spending this year and around $1.1 trillion more over the next 10 years. Mr. Obama visited the shipyard today to drive home his point that the sequester takes a "meat cleaver" to government spending.

As part of his visit, the president toured part of the Supplemental Module Outfitting Facility (SMOF), a large building at the Newport News shipyard. The SMOF supports the building of large sections of Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines and specializes in the construction of the Bow or front sections.

Mr. Obama has been urging Congress to replace the sequester with a "balanced" plan for deficit reduction that includes some spending cuts as well as new revenues from closing tax loopholes and certain tax breaks.

"All we're asking is that they close loopholes for the well-off and the well-connected," Mr. Obama said. "I do not think that is too much to ask, I do not think that is partisan."

If there are Republicans who don't like every detail of his plan, he said, he's ready to compromise.

The president noted that there are politicians from both parties who want to do the same -- including Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who accompanied Mr. Obama on his tour of the shipyard today.

However, Mr. Obama said, "There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes. That's what's holding things up right now."

Rigell represents Virginia's 2nd congressional district, which has the highest concentration of men and women in uniform, active duty and retired, in the country. He said that closing the door completely on any new tax revenues is a bad idea.

"I've... shared with my colleagues that I believe that a position that says we will reject a proposal if it has even a dollar increase in revenue, I don't think that's a wise position and I don't hold that value," Rigell said today. "Our country has a spending problem. We need to grow our economy and raise revenues that way. I also believe that revenue has to come up a bit, first by growing the economy, but also by tax reform which also includes eliminating lobbyist inspired lobbyist written loopholes. I am in favor of that."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have both said that they are against any new tax revenues. The Senate is expected to vote this week on two competing plans to replace the sequester, but neither is expected to win enough support to pass the Congress. Boehner, meanwhile, said today, the Senate needs to "get off their ass" and do something.

Mr. Obama noted today that "already the uncertainty around these cuts is having an effect." He seemed to acknowledge, however, that it's unlikely Congress will agree to a plan to avert the cuts before they start to take effect on Friday. "The longer these cuts are in place, the greater the damage," he said.