Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
After Monday morning meetings at the White House, Republican governors slammed President Obama for not more showing more leadership as the federal government nears a March 1 deadline for automatic spending cuts and pressed the president to offer alternatives.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said the White House should have no trouble finding $85 billion to replace those automatic cuts -- known around Washington, D.C., as 'sequestration' -- which were passed by Congress and signed by the president as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act.
"These are modest reductions. I think we could all agree there is at least 3 percent of wasteful spending in the federal government," Jindal told reporters in a press briefing after the governors met with Obama at the White House. "It's not unreasonable to expect the administration to be able to make those cuts."
During the governors' closed-door meeting with Obama, Jindal said he asked the president if he would accept more flexibility to find alternatives to the automatic cuts (which hit defense spending and most domestic discretionary spending with a flat across-the-board cut; for an estimated state-by-state impact of the cuts, check out the White House's report).
The idea being: Congress would give Obama broad discretion to implement cuts equal to sequestration. The nation's governors would even pressure Congress to give him that authority, Jindal said, if Obama would accept it.
But Obama told the govenors he wouldn't want that responsibility, Jindal said. The president argued that he'd be blamed politically for the cuts under such a scenario. Jindal was disapponted by that response, he said.
"That's incomprehensible," Jindal said. "This is a very modest first step toward fiscal sanity."
The collective message from Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who joined him at the briefing, was that Obama needed to lead on the issue, but that politics also must to be set aside to find a resolution. They sharply criticized the political warfare that has broken out between the White House and Hill Republicans, who have spent recent weeks trying to assign blame for the coming cuts instead of working to avoid them.
"I think the American people just want their leaders to solve these problems," Jindal said. "Fingerpointing is not the solution here. Nobody outside this town cares whose fault it was. Let's just fix it."