Jo Comerford, the executive director of the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan, liberal-leaning research center that analyzes how tax dollars are spent, said shed welcome flexibility but that the White House never pursued it because it wanted a balanced approach that comprised more than just spending cuts. President Obama is saying there are other ways to move forward, she said.
Obama has urged Congress to delay the reductions, even by a few months, by passing a package of modest spending cuts and additional tax revenue by eliminating tax loopholes that benefit certain industries or the wealthy.
Carney didnt rule out that the president would sign legislation that allowed flexibility. But Carney dismissed suggestions Monday that additional flexibility would help alleviate the problem.
A bill that introduced enough flexibility to do away with all the bad things doesnt exist, he said. It cant be written, not with the size of these cuts, and the fact that they needed to be implemented in such a short period of time in this fiscal year.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, said Monday that added flexibility would help only on the margins because shed still have to cut pay for thousands of workers who are key to security at airports, the border, in ports and elsewhere. The plain fact of the matter is (the cuts) fall at such a heavy level because were so personnel-rich as a department, she said.
Republicans in Congress have been pushing for flexibility for some time, including floating a proposal that would let the White House offer changes to realign funding after the cuts took effect.
This week, some Republicans, including Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, began to work on bills that might be unveiled as early as Tuesday.
Senate Democrats will introduce a plan to postpone the cuts to Jan. 2, 2014. Reductions would be replaced by a minimum 30 percent phased-in tax rate on incomes between $1 million and $2 million; eliminating loopholes for businesses that move jobs overseas; slicing $27.5 billion from defense and cutting $27.5 billion over 10 years by eliminating direct payments to large farmers.
In a meeting Monday at the White House, Obama urged the nations governors to press members of Congress to avert the spending reductions altogether. I hope that you speak with your congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms exactly what is at stake and exactly who is at risk, the president said.
Republican governors, who said theyd asked the administration for flexibility, remained critical of both parties for the crisis.
The answers to everything we got was no, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said. I cannot be more frustrated than I am right now. . . . My kids could find $83 billion out of a $4 trillion budget.
Lesley Clark and David Lightman contributed to this report.