Obama: Automatic budget cuts threaten economy

Washington, Feb 19 (EFE).- President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday of danger for the U.S. economy if Congress doesn't act to stop the so-called budget sequester: a set of spending cuts set to take effect March 1.

"As I said in my State of the Union address last week, our top priority must be to do everything we can to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs," he said at a White House event.

"And that's why it's so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite," the president said.

Obama was accompanied by uniformed emergency workers, whom he gave as an example, together with others like teachers, FBI agents and air traffic controllers, of workers who could lose their jobs because of these budget cuts.

As a result of a decision by Congress in 2011, without an agreement on reducing the government deficit, immediate spending cuts of more than $85 billion will automatically go into effect.

Obama's proposal is for Congress to approve a short-term plan that combines reduced spending with increased revenues to avoid these automatic cuts.

"So my door is open," he said. "I've put tough cuts and reforms on the table. I am willing to work with anybody to get this job done."

The president recalled that he is ready to make cuts in social programs, as requested by Republicans, but said that it is equally necessary to close tax loopholes and boost revenue.

With Congress in recess this week, legislators will return to work next Monday with just four days to try and reach an agreement to avoid the sequester cuts.

Before Obama's address, Republican House Speaker John Boehner asked the president for "common sense cuts" and accused him of wanting "more Washington spending."