Nightly News   |  February 23, 2013

Obama pushes for compromise on sequester

Recent polls show a majority of Americans support the president's plan to avert the sequester through new taxes and spending cuts. But House Republicans say they just agreed to raise taxes and this deal should be solely based on slashing spending. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> remember that fiscal cliff this country nearly toppled over at the end of 2012 ? congressional republicans and the president reached an 11th-hour deal that brought us back to safer ground temporarily. guess what, tonight almost two months later we're teetering on the ledge again, this time they're calling it sequestration. it's impact on every single american is no less profound. six days from now, unless a budget deal is reached, a massive round of automatic government spending cuts will go into effect. if you thought the urgency of the situation would have the white house and republicans burning the midnight oil to make a deal you'd be mistaken. nbc's kristen welker is at the white house .

>> reporter: good evening. president obama has said he would be in contact with members of congress, but according to my sources here at the white house and on the hill there have been no top-level discussions today and there is no resolution in sight. bipartisan frustration.

>> the uncertainty of sequestration is really harming our states and national economy .

>> this is something nobody wants. it's not a balanced, thoughtful compromise.

>> reporter: hope for a deal is fading but the president said today there is still time .

>> these cuts don't have to happen. congress can turn them off any time with just a little compromise.

>> reporter: recent polls show a majority of americans support the president's plan to avert the sequester through new taxes and spending cuts. but house republicans say they just agreed to raise taxes and this deal should be solely based on slashing spending.

>> house republicans have already passed two bills to replace the president's sequester. so the question is, why won't he work with us? and the answer, quite simply, is because he wants higher taxes.

>> reporter: meanwhile the obama administration is warning of dire consequences. arguing as many as 10,000 teachers could be laid off. more than 1,000 fbi agents could see cutbacks or furloughs. there could be as many as 2,100 fewer food safety inspections. on friday, outgoing transportation secretary ray lahood said travelers would see major delays.

>> this is going to have a real impact. calamity. it's a big deal .

>> reporter: lahood said faa would need to trim $1 billion, less than 2% of the entire transportation budget.

>> i think you've got a little bit of scare tactics going on there.

>> reporter: and there is still finger-pointing over whose idea this was in the first place. in a " washington post " op-ed, bob woodward claims it came directly from the white house , writing, "obama personally approved the plan." white house officials have argued that the majority of house republicans voted to approve the sequester. as for furloughs, government officials say the majority of them won't take effect for about a month.