President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Friday on a deficit-cutting congressional ``super committee,'' urging its members to act before a Nov. 23 deadline as he left for a lengthy Asian tour.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with Obama that the president had encouraged the committee to find a balanced approach that embraces both tax increases and cuts in government spending.
Carney stressed that Obama would block any measures by Congress to water down painful enforcement mechanisms designed to ensure that they forge a deal to lower the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
``He will not accept any measure that attempts to turn off part of the sequester,'' Carney said, referring to the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in in 2013 if the committee fails to agree on a deal.
Obama spoke by telephone with Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Republican, about an hour after he left Washington. The two senators are the co-chairs of the committee.
Republicans have so far been reluctant to discuss tax hikes, while Democrats do not want to agree to cuts in government-backed healthcare and retirement programs until these are on the table.
Obama has faced questions about his decision to go on the Asian tour when the committee is entering the home stretch of its negotiations and political leaders may need to intervene in the event of a deadlock.
White House budget director Jack Lew dismissed those concerns this week, telling Reuters that Obama would be able to intervene from afar if necessary. He did not foresee the president cutting short his trip.