Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said Thursday the fate of spending cuts for some 4,500 local civilian military employees is in the hands of Republican leadership.
The congressman said the automatic $85 billion in spending cuts were "reckless" and any assertion that the country needed the massive cuts was "naive, at best."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday the cuts would result in the Defense Department's civilian workers losing one day of work per week for up to 22 weeks. The furloughs would probably start in late April.
President Barack Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday but neither side reported progress.
Farr, who has been in Monterey County the past month because of knee surgery, said he looked forward to getting back to work in Washington next week.
He said he simply didn't know if Congress would be able to make a deal.
The imminent spending cuts are required under a budget plan Obama and Congress agreed to in 2011 that was designed to force lawmakers and the president to find less onerous ways to reduce deficits and stabilize the national debt. Both sides failed to find an alternative, leaving the cuts to kick in this year.
Lawmakers have until March 1 to come to an agreement, but all affected workers will get at least 30 days' advance notice before furloughs can begin.
Presidio of Monterey spokesman Daniel Carpenter said Thursday the unpaid time could affect 3,000 civilian employees at the U.S. Army Garrison, Defense Language Institute and other logistics employees at the Presidio.
"No one is throwing themselves out in the street," he said. "People are waiting to see what happens on March 1."
He said employees have known for months something might happen.
"You're planning for the Army, but you're also planning for yourself," he said. "... Offices have talked about it so that folks are thinking, 'Hey, I may need to save a little bit of money to handle that when it happens.'"
The so-called sequestration equates to $49 million lost at DLI and roughly $7.5 million at the garrison, Carpenter said.
The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey will also feel the cuts with 1,500 employees affected, according to Pete Randazzo, president of National Federation of Federal Employees Union Local 1690.
Obama sounded cautious about chances for a breakthrough during a Thursday interview with television and radio talk show host Al Sharpton.
"At this point, we continue to reach out to the Republicans and say this is not going to be good for the economy, and it's not going to be good for ordinary people," Obama said. "But I don't know if they're going to move, and that's what we're going to have to try to keep pushing over the next seven, eight days."
Later Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney and Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck engaged in an exchange on Twitter debating Obama's insistence on replacing the cuts with a combination of tax increases and targeted spending reductions, an approach that Obama says would strike a balance between revenue and cuts.
Republicans have refused to increase taxes, noting that Congress already agreed to a previous Obama request to raise the upper tax rate for top income earners.
"Oh, Jay. Was it balanced when the president got $600B in revenue with no spending cuts just last month?" Buck put on Twitter at one point.
Farr said finding a solution was important not just for Monterey County but for "the whole country."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or email@example.com.