* Republicans want Obama to be flexible in how cuts are made
* White House has said law forces cuts to be made across the
* Republican Senator Ayotte says working on spending-cuts
* Obama to address governors on Sunday night
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 24 With five days left before
$85 billion is slashed from U.S. government budgets, governors
and lawmakers from both parties said the White House and
Congress should pull out the stops to avert indiscriminate cuts.
Republicans, who are seeking spending cuts, urged President
Barack Obama to apply what's known as the "sequester" in a more
careful way, rather than slashing budgets across the board.
The White House has issued dire warnings about the impact
the cuts will have, including mass temporary layoffs or
"furloughs" in the military, a slowdown in air traffic, and
shutdowns for daycare programs and meat-processing plants.
"They've rolled out this great political theater about how
cutting less than 3 percent of the federal budget is going to
cause all these awful consequences," said Louisiana Governor
Bobby Jindal, a Republican, on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"Here's his chance to say, 'Here's how we can do it
better,'" Jindal said, suggesting Congress and the White House
give departments the ability to cut spending on less essential
Congress returns on Monday after a week-long recess and
unless lawmakers reach a deal with the White House to postpone
the sequester cuts, they will take effect on March 1.
Obama has urged Congress to buy more time for a broad budget
deal with a short-term measure that boosts revenues by ending
some tax breaks for the wealthy.
Senate Democrats have put forward a plan that focuses on
those tax loopholes. This week, Republicans are expected to
"I think this notion of giving the President the discretion
to make the spending cuts - I think that's a cop-out. So I will
be urging my colleagues to have an alternative and for us to
present one," said Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New
Hampshire, on CBS's "Face the Nation."
WASHINGTON, SOUTH TO BE HARDEST HIT
Governors, in Washington this week for an annual meeting,
are concerned about the impact of the cuts on jobs and the
economy at the state level.
On average, government programs subject to the cuts provide
6.6 percent of states' revenues, according to Pew Center on the
Obama is slated to speak to the group at 7:10 p.m. EST (0010
GMT Monday) at a White House dinner on Sunday night.
An analysis by Wells Fargo Securities Economics Group last
week found that under sequestration, states close to the
nation's capital and in the South will be hardest hit.
White House officials have said the sequester law does not
allow the administration to be flexible in applying the cuts.
"We don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to
figure out what the right thing to do is," Education Secretary
Arne Duncan said on "Face the Nation."
"There are literally teachers now who are given pink slips,
who are given notices that they can't come back this fall,"
In recent weeks, the White House has staged a series of
events to illustrate how the cuts will affect American jobs, and
has focused on pinning the blame for the looming cuts on
Republicans have fought back by saying the sequester
mechanism - part of a 2011 law designed to force Congress to
reach a deficit reduction deal - was Obama's idea.
On Sunday, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward waded into
that fight, saying White House officials including Jack Lew -
Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary - proposed the sequester.
In an opinion piece, Woodward said Obama was "moving the
goal posts" by insisting on new tax revenue as part of an
alternative to the sequester cuts.
"His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he
makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could
and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made" in 2011,
said Woodward, who wrote a book about the deal called "The Price
But an administration official said Obama had always said
that he would push to replace the sequester cuts with a mix of
spending cuts and tax revenue.
"The sequester was understood by all parties to be an
enforcement mechanism that would be mutually odious enough to
bring both parties back to the table to negotiate a 'Grand
Bargain' with both entitlement savings and revenues to replace
it," said the official, on condition of anonymity.
LOTS OF TALK, LITTLE NEGOTIATION
Rhetoric aside, there has been almost no negotiation between
the White House and Congress on the March 1 cuts, although Obama
phoned Republican leaders last week to discuss the issue.
"The president should be calling us over somewhere, Camp
David, the White House, somewhere, and sitting down and trying
to avert these cuts," said Republican Senator John McCain on
CNN's "State of the Union."
Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel agreed that Congress
should seek "smart" cuts, rather than across-the-board
"I think Congress should sit down and avoid the sequester,"
Engel said on ABC's "This Week."
"And if the sequester kicks in, for a week or so, we should
then fix it so it doesn't become a permanent thing," Engel said.