Congress Urged to Avert Looming Budget Cut

August 2, 2012

In a hearing punctuated by partisan anger, acting White House budget director Jeff Zients rejected assertions that President Barack Obama was responsible for the stalemate over the looming budget cuts.

Zients said the problem was Republicans' reluctance to consider higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Pressed by Republican Representative Randy Forbes over whether the president had "some responsibility to put forward a realistic proposal" to avert the cuts, Zients shot back, "What's holding us up right now is the Republican refusal to have the top 2 percent pay their fair share."

Zients told members of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee the cuts due to kick in on January 2 would be devastating for both defense and non-defense programs, causing 16,000 teachers and aides to lose their jobs and eliminating early childhood education for 100,000 youngsters.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who testified alongside Zients, said the reductions would force the Pentagon to cut back on the planes it is planning to buy and delay ship construction, moves that will ultimately cause costs to rise.

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