AP file photo of President Barack Obama.
(USA TODAY) - President Obama called on Congress Tuesday to avoid a series of automatic budget cuts next month by passing a short-term budget plan this month.
Major cuts to defense and education programs "will cost us jobs and slow down our economy," Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.
Facing a March 1 deadline, Obama called for "a small package" of spending cuts and tax revenue increases as a short-term stopgap to delay the series of automatic cuts known as "the sequester."
Obama said the economy is "headed in the right direction," but not if Washington continues "self-inflicted" wounds like the sequester. "Let's keep on chipping away at these problems" of debt and budget deficits, Obama told Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it's up to Obama and congressional Democrats to "get serious" about debt reduction.
"House Republicans have twice passed legislation that would replace the sequester in a smarter way, only to see it ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate," said the Senate's top Republican. "If Democrats have ideas for smarter cuts, they should bring them up for debate."
The president said he is still looking for a major debt reduction deal for the long tern of more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, saying that earlier ideas are "still on the table." Obama said he still supports proposed reforms to the tax code and to the ever-rising entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, but did not provide many specifics.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would work with Congress on the composition of a short-term budget plan that would require tens of billions of debt reduction to avoid the scheduled budget cuts. Carney noted that Obama and congressional Republicans have struck previous deals that add up to some $2.5 trillion in debt reduction over the next years.
Obama also renewed his call for a "balanced" approach to reducing the nation's $16.4 trillion debt, a plan that includes more tax revenues as well as budget cuts.
That includes more tax revenues, though Obama did not call for higher income tax rates on the wealthy that were part of the fiscal cliff deal reached with Congress last month. Instead, he again proposed closing tax loopholes and ending certain deductions that benefit the rich.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the GOP-run House supports a package of tax cuts, but Obama and other Democrats have objected to them. Boehner also said that, given the tax hikes in the fiscal cliff deal, debt reduction moving forward should involve only spending cuts.
"Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement. "The president's sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years."