President Obama is turning up the heat on Congress to avert deep, automatic spending cuts.  In a statement from the White House, the President called the cuts severe and troubling.  He warned that the cuts will cost jobs and harm the economic recovery.  Across-the-board cuts in a so-called sequester are set to kick in on March 1st. 

The Pentagon would be hit especially hard. In his statement, Obama was surrounded by emergency responders.  He said the sequester will make it harder for cops and firefighters to do their jobs.  

The sequester was established in the bipartisan 2011 deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.  It was designed to inspire lawmakers to craft a long term plan to reduce the deficit, something that did not happen. 

The sequester dictates $85 billion in spending cuts this year.  More than half will hit the Defense Department.  Over ten years, the sequester triggers $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.  Obama cited significant deficit reduction during his tenure and called for a "balanced approach" to bring deficits down more.