Obama said for the first time Tuesday that he would not support the Republican-led effort to shift the cuts to other areas.
The problem is when youre cutting $85 billion in seven months, which represents over a 10 percent cut in the defense budget in seven months, theres no smart way to do that, he said. You dont want to have to choose between, lets see, do I do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?
Obamas administration has outlined what the reductions might mean in each state, but Republicans dispute some of the damage the cuts may cause.
The impact of this policy wont be felt overnight but it will be real, Obama said. The sequester will weaken Americas economic recovery. It will weaken our military readiness. And it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every single day.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that the cuts are ill-timed given the weak economy, suggesting an approach than enacts steep spending cuts further out when economic recovery has gained more steam.
The Congress and the administration should consider replacing the sharp, front-loaded spending cuts required by the sequestration with policies that reduce the federal deficit more gradually in the near term but more substantially in the longer run, he said.
Bernanke does not support a proposal to give agencies more flexibility on the cuts.
I think that the near-term effect on growth would probably not be substantially different if you did it that way, he said.
Virginias Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, sent a letter to Obama and Congress last week, saying the cuts could force his state into a recession.
A study by George Mason University indicated that Virginia could lose more than 200,000 jobs, more than 136,000 in defense, if the cuts go into effect.
The cuts would be felt across the state, though they would hit Newport News and the entire Hampton Roads region home of the worlds largest naval facility and thousands of defense-related jobs particularly hard.
About 90,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed in the state, according to the White House. Army base operation funding would be cut by about $146 million. The maintenance of 11 ships in Norfolk would be canceled.
Employees at Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest manufacturing employer in Virginia, have been hearing rumors for weeks that layoffs were imminent. Many workers offered the chance to see the president Tuesday said they wanted to hear whether the problems in Washington could be solved.
I just wish they could agree, said Damarus Stephens, a dock electrician from Newport News who has worked at the company for a year. I know they agree to disagree, but I just wish they would agree to agree.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Obama was joined by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who represent the region Reps. Bobby Scott, a Democrat, and Scott Rigell, a Republican who has urged his party to compromise.
Ive also 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 dont think thats a wise position and I dont hold that value, Rigell said.
Republicans mocked Obama for campaigning and urged him to return to Washington and negotiate.
The president has been traveling all over the country and today going down to Newport News in order to use our military men and women as a prop in yet another campaign rally to support his tax hikes, said Boehner.
VIDEO: Obama: Budget cuts wrong, not smart and not fair