A trio of Republican governors argued Monday that President Obama is trying to frighten the American people about the impact of the deep federal spending cuts set to begin this week, and continued urging him to pursue alternate spending reductions as they leveled criticism against his call for new tax revenue.
"I think he's trying to scare the American people," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) told reporters at a Republican Governors Association news conference after a meeting with Obama at the White House.
Deep spending cuts split evenly between defense and domestic spending known as the sequester are set to begin kicking in Friday if lawmakers don't act to avert them. Democrats are advocating a mix of new tax revenue and alternate spending cuts as a means of avoiding the sequester. Republicans are opposed to new tax increases.
"It has become clear to me that this president, this administration, has an insatiable appetite for new revenues," said Jindal.
On Sunday, the Obama administration released a detailed summary of the
sequester's impact on all 50 states and the District. Administration officials appearing on Sunday morning news shows warned of devastating cuts to education and transportation that would take place if the sequester isn't averted.
Jindal said that in the president's Monday meeting with the governors, one governor raised the possibility of Obama asking Congress for more flexibility with where the cuts are made, in order to soften their blow.
"When a governor asked him about getting that additional flexibility from Congress, he didn't jump at that," said Jindal, who called such an approach an "obvious" solution. Jindal didn't say which governor raised the suggestion.
At the top of a meeting with the governors, Obama encouraged them to press lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act to avert the cuts as he reinforced his call for a mix of new tax revenue and alternate spending cuts.
"While you are in town, I hope that you speak with your congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms exactly what is at stake and exactly who is at risk," Obama said.
Wisconsin Gov. and RGA Vice Chairman Scott Walker (R) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) appeared alongside Jindal, and echoed his criticism of the president.
Walker charged that the White House was playing politics when it released the summary of the sequester's impact on the states ahead of Monday's meeting with governors.
"I think it's pretty clear those were put out for political purposes, not to educate the governors," Walker said. "Because you have a meeting scheduled today with all the governors across America. If you were serious about having a discussion with governors about the implications, you wouldn't give it to the press before you gave to to governors."
Haley said she was frustrated by what she sees as the president's focus on new tax revenue instead over identifying parts of government spending that can be cut. "My kids could go and find 83 billion dollars out of a four-trillion-dollar budget," she said. "This is not rocket science."
Democratic governors responded by lashing their GOP counterparts for not pressing congressional Republicans to accept a deal that includes new tax revenue.
"Republican governors like to say they're different than Republican politicians in Washington, but it's all talk," said Democratic Governors Association spokesman Danny Kanner. "They refuse to urge congressional Republicans to embrace a balanced approach or end special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in order to stop job-killing automatic spending cuts, demonstrating that they have no interest in a bipartisan agreement."