President Obama denounces political spending cuts

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 2:58 PM

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Saturday that spending cuts to narrow the U.S. budget deficit must not be politically motivated or threaten the economy as it climbs out of recession.

Obama's fellow Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been debating how to best narrow the budget shortfall, with Republicans dismissing Democratic plans as far too timid to deal with a deficit projected to hit a record $1.65 trillion this year.

Obama said he was open to more spending cuts, but drew the line at slashing programs in a way that would be a risk to his top priorities -- investment in technological development, education and infrastructure.

"Getting our fiscal house in order can't just be something we use as cover to do away with things we dislike politically. And it can't just be about how much we cut. It's got to be about how we cut and how we invest," Obama said in his weekly radio address, recorded at a Miami high school where he spoke on Friday about the importance of funding for education.

Some Republicans have pushed to cut funding for public broadcasters, criticized by some conservatives as too liberal, or Planned Parenthood family planning centers, which also provide abortions.

Democrats have sought to preserve funding for Obama's landmark healthcare reform law enacted last year and for high priority environmental programs the administration wants.

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Republicans have made spending cuts their top priority since Tea Party-aligned conservatives helped them win control of the House of Representatives in November.

They say their proposed reductions are essential to trim a dangerous shortfall.

"It (Obama's budget) continues out-of-control spending, it adds to our $14 trillion debt and it adds to the uncertainty that makes it harder to create jobs," Representative Diane Black said in the Republicans' weekly radio address.

"Maintaining the status quo -- and refusing to offer a credible plan to cut spending -- is just unacceptable and inexcusable," Black said.

Obama praised Democrats and Republicans in Congress for agreeing on a two-week spending bill that averted a government shutdown, but said legislators have to come up with a long-term spending plan.

"We can't do business two weeks at a time. It's not responsible, and it threatens the progress our economy has been making. We've got to keep that momentum going," he said.

Vice President Joe Biden met with top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on Thursday in an opening round of White House-led budget talks.

Obama also cited an encouraging monthly unemployment report released on Friday as evidence that his economic programs, including a tax relief plan supported by both Republicans and Democrats, were working.

The U.S. jobless rate slipped to a nearly two-year low of 8.9 percent in February, showing the economy is finally kicking into a higher gear as private employers hired 222,000 workers, the most since April.

But Obama said more had to be done. "Our top priority right now has to be creating new jobs and opportunities in a fiercely competitive world," Obama said.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)