* Across-the-board cuts set to take effect on Friday
* No negotiations underway
* Official says research on cancer, Alzheimer's threatened
By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON, Feb 25 President Barack Obama urged
state governors on Monday to pressure Congress to prevent $85
billion in across-the-board government spending cuts from going
into effect on Friday, saying he is willing to reach a
compromise with Republicans.
But the president gave no indication that he would try to
start negotiations or take steps to blunt the effect of the
cuts. He bemoaned what he described as a confrontational
atmosphere in Washington, where budget battles have provoked one
near crisis after another since the summer of 2011.
"Some people in Congress reflexively oppose any idea I put
forward," he said before a meeting with governors at the White
Officials in his administration continued a week-long effort
to portray what they describe as the dire consequences of the
cuts to popular programs.
The latest warning came from Francis Collins, director of
the National Institutes of Health, who said the cuts - known as
a "sequestration" - threatened to slow research on cancer and
Alzheimer's disease, and development of a new flu vaccine, among
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the House of
Representatives have scheduled a brief news conference for 4
p.m. EST (2100 GMT) on Monday to discuss the cuts, but they are
not expected to announce any new initiatives, according to a
senior House Republican aide.
"Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary automatic
budget cuts to kick in that will slow our economy, eliminate
jobs and leave a lot of folks who are already pretty thinly
stretched scrambling to figure what do," the president told the
governors on Monday.
With the deadline drawing closer, Obama asked the governors,
who are in Washington for their annual meeting, to persuade
Congress to come to terms with the administration and break a
stalemate over taxes and spending.
"While you are in town, I hope you will speak with your
congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms
exactly what is at stake," the president said. "These cuts do
not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with
just a little bit of compromise."
The White House has sought to highlight in recent weeks in
stark terms the disruptions that would result if the $85 billion
in spending cuts go into effect as scheduled March 1.
Obama has asked Congress to buy more time for a broad budget
deal with a short-term measure that boosts revenues by ending
some tax breaks that benefit the wealthiest Americans.
But congressional Republicans have rejected his call for
more tax revenues, saying their agreement in early January to
let taxes rise for those earning above $450,000 a year was the
only concession they are willing to make in the form of higher
Republicans have long sought deep government spending cuts,
and while the sequestration was originally designed to be so
harsh that it would force both sides to compromise, many
lawmakers appear ready to let them go into effect.
Senate Democrats have put forward a plan that focuses on
those tax loopholes, and this week Republicans are expected to