President Obama denounces political spending cuts

* More budget/deficit battles to come

* Republicans say Democrats seek to preserve “status quo”

* It’s “about how we cut and how we invest,” Obama says

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, March 5 (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.


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)