WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama on Monday appealed to state governors to use their influence with Congress to avert deep automatic cuts in domestic and defense spending scheduled to begin Friday.
Eighty-five billion dollars in cuts, the first stage of a potential $1.2 trillion in reductions over 10 years required by a past deficit agreement, will take effect unless Congress can pass alternative legislation.
On Sunday, The White House released details of what it called "devastating" effects on all U.S. states and the District of Columbia, ranging from flight delays and cancellations, to border security and national security impacts.
Speaking to governors, President Obama said they are in the best position to know how budget cuts will make life harder for Americans.
"The longer these cuts are in place, the bigger the impact will become," said President Obama. "So while you are in town, I hope that you will speak with your congressional delegation and remind them - in no uncertain terms - what is at stake, and exactly who is at risk. Because here is the thing, these cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise."
Senate Democrats are working on legislation that could delay the Friday deadline for mandatory cuts, known as a sequester, and allow more time for broader negotiations.
Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner says the House will not act unless it receives a bill from the Senate.
"The President could sit down with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid tonight and work with Senate Democrats, who have the majority in the Senate, to move a bill," said Boehner. "It's time for them to act. I have made this clear for months now, and yet we see nothing."
Boehner says President Obama's balanced approach to deficit reduction, including his call for additional revenue, amounts to more tax increases, and government spending.
After meeting with Obama, governors voiced concerns about impacts from the sequester.
Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland supports President Obama's call for balanced reductions. Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal asserted President Obama has not shown enough leadership.
OMALLEY: "All of us are calling on Congress to come together, to solve this problem, and do it not in an arbitrary way, but in a way where we can compromise and save jobs and keep our economy moving forward."
JINDAL: "Enough is enough. Now is the time to cut spending. It can be done without jeopardizing the economy. It can be done without jeopardizing critical services. The president needs to stop campaigning, stop trying to scare the American people, stop trying to scare states."
The White House denies suggestions it is using scare tactics, as some Republicans and other critics suggest.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared at the White House news briefing to speak about wide-ranging severe effects of the sequester.
"Put simply, the automatic budget reduction mandated by sequestration would be disruptive and destructive to our nation's security and economy," said Napolitano.
Napolitano said impacts would include furloughs of Customs and Border Patrol officers, delays at airports and border crossing points, increased costs to trade, and reduced capabilities to respond to natural disasters.
Asked about increased vulnerability to terrorism, Napolitano said her agency will undertake the same security checks at border points, but procedures will take longer, and overall security may be weakened.