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Obama looks for new allies in 'sequester' fight: Republican governors

The president is hoping that governors – who will have to grapple with the impact of the sequester in their states – will lean on members of Congress to avert the spending cuts.

By Correspondent / February 25, 2013

President Obama addresses the National Governors Association Monday at the White House. Mr. Obama encouraged the governors to tell their congressional counterparts how painful the sequester spending cuts will be in their particular states.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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President Obama is trying to get some new allies in his effort to pressure Congress to avert the "sequester": the nation's governors – in particular, Republicans.

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Correspondent

Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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Speaking Monday morning to the National Association of Governors, assembled in Washington for their annual conference, Mr. Obama urged the governors to lobby their congressional counterparts directly and tell them just how painful the across-the-board spending cuts will be in their particular states.

To help them make their case, the White House also provided the governors with some specific data points showing just what the impact of the cuts will be, in a series of fact sheets detailing exactly how the cuts will affect each state individually. For example, according to the White House analysis, Arkansas stands to lose $5.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education. In Maryland, 46,000 Defense employees would be furloughed. In Florida, more than 7,000 children won't get vaccines. 

Obama then drove the point home: "While you are in town, I hope you will speak with your congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms exactly what is at stake and exactly who is at risk. Because here's the thing: These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise."

It's another attempt by the president to pressure congressional Republicans from the outside, rather than engage in direct negotiations with them. Republicans have been criticizing the White House for this tactic, even though direct negotiations haven't proved particularly fruitful in the past. 

And there's reason to believe that at least some Republican governors – who will be forced to grapple directly with the impact of the cuts, and in some cases, perhaps, make up the difference from their own cash-starved budgets – may indeed prove compelling lobbyists. As Politico reported Sunday: "[Republican] governors have publicly signed on to letters bashing Obama and praising House Republicans' efforts, but privately their offices have been urging lawmakers to work harder to avoid potentially devastating cuts – particularly those that could hit local programs."

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