Sequestration will not happen, Obama says in final debate

Tuesday - 10/23/2012, 6:31am EDT

Sequestration will not happen. President Barack Obama made this assertion Monday night during the third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla.

"The sequester is not something that I proposed," Obama said, of the $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts set to kick in on Jan. 2. "It's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen. The budget that we're talking about is not reducing our military spending. It's maintaining it."

Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney used the debate to outline their different approaches to reducing federal spending.

"We're going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget excluding military," Romney said.

The former Massachusetts governor said he would balance the budget within eight to 10 years by reducing spending on a number of programs.

"Number one I get rid of is 'Obamacare,'" he said. "There are a number of things that sound good but, frankly, we just can't afford them. And that one doesn't sound good, and it's not affordable, so I get rid of that one from day one; to the extent humanly possible, we get that out. We take program after program that we don't absolutely have to have and we get rid of them."

Mitt Romney, left, as Republican presidential nominee, and President Barack Obama, right, during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla. (AP graphic)

President Obama challenged his opponent's call to cut $5 trillion by closing loopholes and deductions while asking for an additional $2 trillion on defense spending.

"Our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office," Obama said. "We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined — China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom — you name it, next 10. And what I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe? And that's the budget that we've put forward."

To make his point, Romney described how the Navy — which he said was smaller now than at anytime since 1917 — would be further reduced if sequestration were allowed to occur.

"This, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people," he said. "And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts."

In response, Obama said sequestration would not happen and that he would maintain military spending based on the needs of the Defense Department.

"When I sit down with the secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home," he said. "And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward, because it just don't work," Obama said.

Monday night's debate was the third and final debate between the 2012 presidential candidates before the Nov. 6 election. The focus of Monday's debate was foreign policy. The two previous debates focused on domestic policy and domestic and foreign policy.

Vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan debated budget and defense cuts on Oct. 12.

RELATED STORIES

Obama: Buck stops here on protecting U.S. diplomats

Obama, Romney define role of government during presidential debate

Biden, Ryan wrangle over budget, defense cuts

Study: DoD sequestration cuts would slam federal workforce, delay pain to contractors

OMB to begin planning for sequestration