Sequester: "It's just dumb," Obama Says

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
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(CBS)-- As the sequester starts to take effect, President Obama said today that the economic impact the nation will see in the coming months is "happening because of a choice Republicans in Congress have made."

Mr. Obama held a private meeting with congressional leaders from both parties this morning to talk about the sequester, which will slash $85 billion from the budget this fiscal year and $1.1 trillion more over the next 10. There's widespread agreement the indiscriminate cuts will take a toll on the economy and hit the wrong part of the budget. They go into effect today, however, because the president and Congress failed to agree with a budget savings plan with which to replace them.

"This is not the apocalypse. It's just dumb," Mr. Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room today, following his meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"I don't anticipate a huge financial crisis, but people are going to be hurt," he added. "The longer the cuts remains in place, the greater the damage to our economy... Every time we get a piece of economic news over the next month, the next two months, the next six months, we'll know that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act."

Mr. Obama said he is "prepared to to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things" when it comes to modifying programs like Medicare in order to achieve budget savings.

However, he said he can't "do a Jedi mind-mind" to force Republicans to meet him part way by agreeing to closing tax loopholes.

"I put forward a plan that calls for serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reforms

goes right at the problem that is at the heart of our long term problem... so far we've gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans said is, we cannot do any revenue," the president said, when asked whether he takes any of the blame for the ongoing gridlock. "So what more do you think I should do?"

In today's meeting, according to Boehner's office, Republican leaders told the president they're willing to close tax loopholes, but not as part of a plan to replace the sequester. Any revenue generated by closing tax loopholes should be used to lower tax rates and create jobs, they said.

"This discussion about revenue in my view is over," Boehner said to reporters outside of the White House this morning after the meeting. The speaker also chided the Senate for failing to pass a plan to avert the sequester, even though the GOP-led House managed to pass two sequester replacement plans last year. Yesterday, the Senate rejected two competing plans to replace the sequester, a Democratic plan and a Republican plan. The Democratic plan managed to win the support of a simple majority -- though without any GOP support -- but it failed to get the votes necessary to break a filibuster.
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