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Obama access and sequester: Feb. 19 White House storylines UPDATED

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WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama's White House has two developing storylines on Tuesday: the impact of the sequester--the automatic spending cuts poised to start hitting a week from Friday if Congress does not act--and press corps concerns about access to the president.

THE BUDGET CUT STORYLINE: Obama at 10:45 a.m. ET will be flanked by police and fire personnel as he delivers comments urging Congress to avert the looming congressional-made budget crisis.

From the White House: "The President will deliver remarks to urge action to avoid the automatic budget cuts scheduled to hit next Friday if Congress fails to find a path forward on balanced deficit reduction. He will be joined at the White House by emergency responders - the kinds of working Americans whose jobs are on the line if Congressional Republicans fail to compromise on a balanced solution. If these cuts go into effect, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost and middle class families all across the nation will feel the devastating impact; FEMA would need to eliminate funding for State and local grants that support firefighter positions and State and local emergency management personnel, hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.

"With less than two weeks before these cuts hit, the President will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice: do they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?"

I expect this to be a topic at the 11:30 a.m. briefing at the White House in the wake of a lack of access to Obama during his Presidents Day weekend in Palm Beach which including golfing with Tiger Woods.

The concern escalated to the point where White House Correspondents Association's president Ed Henry issued a statement on Sunday: "Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend. There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency."

The White House released its own statement, from Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest:

"The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings. It's also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening."



At his event today (with real people!), the president will no doubt suggest Republicans are unwilling to close any special interest loopholes in the tax code. That's nonsense. Ridiculous, even. We have long made clear that reforming the tax code to eliminate carveouts, credits, and deductions is a top priority for House Republicans (look at our budgets). In fact, the House Ways and Means Committee plans to move forward this year with plan to rewrite and simplify the tax code.

Where we and the president differ is what to do with the additional revenue from closing loopholes. Creating jobs remains our top priority in the House. We believe the revenue generated from eliminating these carveouts should be used to lower rates across the board(and the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee agrees). We view tax reform as an opportunity to make America more competitive and encourage private sector job creation. The president sees tax reform as an opportunity to raise revenue to fund more government. We're happy to have a debate about whether tax reform should be focused on creating jobs or growing government, but any statement by the White House that we're unwilling to close loopholes is patently false. The president just got $600 billion in revenue from the fiscal cliff deal. The American people understand the revenue debate is now closed.

If you'd like a quote on this point, please feel free to use: "Americans know that if they give President Obama more tax revenue, he isn't going to use it to reduce the deficit; he's going to spend it." - me

Finally, we agree the sequester is the wrong way to reduce the deficit. Our question is, given that the president just got his higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires, what spending is he willing to cut to replace it?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 19, 2013 7:08 AM.

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