White House Seeks 'Balanced Way' to Budget Fix

February 17, 2013

President Barack Obama is concerned about the effect that looming, drastic across-the-board budget cuts will have on the middle class, his new chief of staff said Sunday. Congressional Republicans predicted the cuts would start as scheduled next month and blamed Obama not only for doing little to stop them but for the idea itself.

The cuts, called the sequester, would drain $85 billion from the government's budget over the coming seven months. Actual cuts may be around 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs because lawmakers delayed their impact, requiring savings over a shorter period of time. The White House last week let loose a list of ways Americans would feel the trims, from longer waits at airport security to as many as 13,000 teachers being laid off. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a congressional panel the sequester would hollow the U.S. military because it would give the Pentagon little leeway in deciding how best to spend the money.

Denis McDonough, the president's chief of staff, warned the cuts would come as the stock market is coming back, the housing market has improved and the number of jobs has grown, and urged Congress to consider a balanced approach that would further strengthen the economy and, in turn, the middle class.

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