President Barack Obama on Monday called on the nation’s governors to lobby their respective congressional delegations to prevent the looming sequestration cuts set to kick in Friday.
At the annual gathering of the National Governors Association, Obama urged the bipartisan group of state executives to review the state-by-state reports issued by the White House Sunday outlining how the more than $1 trillion in across-the-board cuts would affect their constituents. Obama also addressed state and federal partnerships in infrastructure and education.
“Unfortunately, in just four days, Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts to kick in that will slow our economy, eliminate good jobs, and leave a lot of folks who are already pretty thinly stretched scrambling to figure out what to do,” Obama told the group. “So, 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. ... These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise.”
Though the Senate is set to vote on competing sequester replacement plans this week, neither is likely to become law before the end of the week. Meanwhile, Democrats and the White House hope to force a solution by the March 27 deadline to keep the government funded by hammering home a message that highlights the damaging cuts at the department and state levels.
To this end, Obama warned governors that while the effects of the sequester on the economy might not be felt immediately, they certainly are real.
“Now, these impacts will not all be felt on day one. But rest assured, the uncertainty is already having an effect. Companies are preparing layoff notices. Families are preparing to cut back on expenses. And the longer these cuts are in place, the bigger the impact will become,” Obama warned.
Senate Democrats are set to introduce a $110 billion bill that would replace this year’s sequester cuts with a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts, including targeting direct payments to American farmers.
Over the long term, Obama suggested Democrats need to be open to “modest” entitlement reform, but Democrats have not yet discussed a larger package to replace the entirety of the scheduled cuts, instead focusing on turning off the sequester for a year.
Obama will travel to Virginia Tuesday to discuss the impacts of the cuts with regular citizens in an attempt to increase pressure inside the Beltway to act. So far, Republicans seem willing to accept the cuts rather than agree to closing tax loopholes or otherwise raising taxes.
The president also addressed two major points of his State of the Union speech from earlier this month: transportation and education. Obama announced that he would attempt to accelerate action on his “Fix It First” initiative to modernize current transportation and communication networks. He plans to target infrastructure upgrades based on region. For example, he said he wants to help the Northeast move more quickly to build high-speed rail service, while efforts in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana would concentrate on oil and gas production.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.