WASHINGTON — Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Republican governors took aim at President Barack Obama on Monday for allegedly lacking leadership in solving across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect Friday that would hurt Louisiana and other states.
Jindal led a response to the president with fellow Republicans, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. The governors had met with Obama at the White House as part of a National Governors Association conference about the $85 billion in potential cuts, called sequestration.
The White House on Sunday evening released state-by-state reports on how the cuts would hurt Louisiana through teacher losses, cuts in defense employees’ pay, the potential closures of small airports in the state, reduced funding for meals to the elderly, vaccinations for children and more.
“It’s time for the president to show leadership,” Jindal said. “The reality is he’s been engaged in almost nonstop campaigning trying to scare the American people, trying to scare — now — states and others.”
Jindal, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, criticized the president and Congress for having one “manufactured crisis” after another. He said the cuts are less than 3 percent of the $3.5 trillion budget, and Obama and Congress must make them in a responsible way without increasing taxes.
White House officials have argued the cuts are more severe because they only apply to some parts of the federal budget and are made in an arbitrary fashion. The cuts for the rest of the year, if fully implemented, represent 13 percent of federal defense spending, 9 percent of nondefense spending and a roughly $10 billion hit to Medicare.
A Pew Center on the States analysis says Louisiana’s federal grants represent roughly 6.6 percent of state revenues, which is the same as the national average for states.
The sequestration came about in 2011 as a compromise emanating from the White House as a result of House Republicans threatening to make the federal government default on its bills over the debt ceiling debate. The across-the-board cuts to defense spending and nondefense discretionary spending were created as a poison pill to force compromises that have not come.
Obama is asking for a “balanced” plan that includes significant budget cuts but also increases revenues by eliminating some tax loopholes and exemptions that mostly benefit the wealthy, such as the oft-repeated corporate jet exemption. Republicans are refusing to consider additional revenue increases.
Obama said Monday that Congress must act and that Republicans must stop seeing compromise as a dirty word.
Jindal has refused to adopt key parts of Obama’s health care law, such as the Medicaid expansion to insure more people in Louisiana.
Jindal said he asked Obama whether the president would delay enacting the Medicaid expansion nationwide to help solve the sequester.
“He answered that no, he would not be willing to do that,” Jindal said.
Jindal said he supports getting rid some of the tax “loopholes and ridiculous exemptions” but only if the revenues are used to lower tax rates.
Jindal blames the president for the sequestration and much of the problems in Washington. Then, Jindal said the “finger pointing” is pointless.
“The American people just want their leaders to get the job done,” Jindal said. “Finger pointing is not the solution here. Nobody outside of this town really cares about whose fault it was. Let’s just fix it and let’s fix it without raising taxes on the American people.”
South Carolina Gov. Haley spread the blame of “finger pointing” and “playing games” to both Republicans and Democrats in Washington, while arguing that states and the general public will pay the price.
“I challenge the president and the leadership in Congress to sit at a table and quit talking through the media about what needs to be done,” Haley said. “They need to sit down. They don’t need to go home until they solve this.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, was among those to seize on the state-by-state sequester reports and to call on congressional Republicans to stop being obstructionists.
“The drastic, across-the-board, automatic spending cuts that start this Friday are indifferent to party affiliation,” Richmond said in a prepared statement. “Instead, they will indiscriminately target children in school, hungry seniors, college students struggling to pay for college, people looking for a job, women who are the victims of violence, and our public safety and health.
“For this reason alone, I have joined with my colleagues to call on the House Republican leadership to do what is right for our nation’s economy, security and families and take action this week on a balanced plan to avert these damaging and mindless spending cuts,” Richmond added.