Bloomberg News

Obama Will Oppose Any Supercommittee Bid to Avoid Sequester

November 13, 2011

(Updates with Hensarling spokesman comment in eighth paragraph.)

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told leaders of a congressional supercommittee on debt reduction that he opposes efforts to get around automatic cuts required if the group can’t reach an agreement, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama spoke today with the committee’s co-chairmen -- Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Texas Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling -- and urged them to reach an agreement before the Nov. 23 deadline. Carney briefed reporters on Air Force One as the president flew to San Diego.

The automatic cuts were “agreed to by both parties to ensure there was a meaningful enforcement mechanism to force a result from the committee,” the White House said in a statement. “Congress must not shirk its responsibilities.”

Legislation that Congress passed in August to raise the national debt limit charges a 12-member, bipartisan supercommittee with reaching a deal to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over 10 years. The law sets a Nov. 23 deadline for the panel to reach agreement. Failure to pass a plan through Congress by the end of the year would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts in 2013.

Carney said it would be “premature” to discuss pushing back either of the deadlines.

‘Balanced’ Approach

A White House statement describing the conversations said Obama spoke separately by telephone with Murray and Hensarling because he “wanted to hear from the bipartisan leadership of the committee on the status of their discussions.”

Obama told the lawmakers there should take a “balanced” approach that “will require tough choices by both sides, including looking at revenues and entitlements,” according to the statement.

Hensarling told Obama that Republicans have made “a major concession” by agreeing to raise revenue and that Democrats haven’t reciprocated with a plan to reform Medicare and Medicaid to cut health-care costs, said Hensarling spokesman David Popp in an e-mail. “Their reluctance to do so has made deliberations difficult,” Popp said.

Murray’s office had no comment on the call from Obama

Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are trying to head off automatic cuts to defense spending if Congress doesn’t enact a deficit-cutting plan.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters Nov. 3 that he felt bound by the automatic-cut provisions. “It was part of the agreement, either we succeed or we are in the sequester,” he said. “That’s why we have to succeed.”

--Editors: Bob Drummond, Laurie Asseo

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington at mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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