Monday, February 25, 2013

'Sequester' on president's agenda at meeting with governors

President Barack Obama on Monday is expected to implore the nation's governors to put pressure on Congress to avoid the sequester as Obama speaks to the nation's governors at the White House.

Members of the Obama administration, heads of federal agencies and others have been issuing severe warnings to Congress regarding the sequester-- $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that will go into effect March 1 absent a budget. Warnings have been released threatening fewer responders to handle wildfires, reduced food safety inspection, less help for vulnerable Americans and on Friday, widespread flight delays and cancellations.

"Travelers should expect delays. Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and others could experience delays up to 90 minutes during peak hours, because we have fewer controllers on staff. Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters at Friday's White House press briefing after announcing that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans massive furloughs and closing air traffic control towers if the sequester goes into effect.

The White House on Sunday night released state-by-state reports detailing what they say would be "devastating" impacts on each state as a result of the sequester, but the topic of the sequester was notably absent from Obama's speech Sunday night to the governors, who are in town for the National Governors Association's (NGA) annual winter meeting.

Instead, the president at the White House dinner struck an appreciative tone, commending the governors for steering their states through tough times.

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, chair of the NGA, followed Obama's address Sunday night by emphasizing the absence of politics from the night's celebration. "On this one night it?s a relief -- politics doesn?t drive the conversation. We don?t speak of partisan issues or presidential aspirations," Markell said.

But Markell did note the sequester.

"One thing for sure is certain -- you don?t let issues fester. You get to deal with education and health care, and even the sequester," Markell said to laughter and applause from the audience.

Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner have publicly stated their opposition to the sequester, though others have threatened they are willing to let it go into effect.

Some Republicans over the weekend continued to accuse the administration of exaggerating the sequester's impact.

"They have plenty of flexibility in terms of discretion on how they spend money. There are easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel," Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said on Fox News Sunday.

The president is slated to address the governors at 11:05 a.m. ET from the White House State Dining Room. Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also scheduled to speak.


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