Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley lead Republican charge against Obama
By Arun Kumar, Washington, Feb 26 : With no deal in sight on mandated across-the-board forced spending cuts, President Barack Obama painted a grim picture only to be accused by Republicans, led by two Indian-American governors, of scaremongering.
"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," Obama Monday told state governors gathered in Washington.
"Because here's the thing. These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise."
The President's plea to the National Governors Association at the White House was part of his latest push to pressure Congress to avoid what is called 'sequestration' - $85 billion in spending cuts this year and $1.2 trillion through fiscal 2021 - that kicks in Friday.
Part of a 2011 deal to increase America's debt limit, the cuts, half in defence and half in non-defence programmes, were deliberately designed to be painful to make the Congress act on the nation's mounting deficit.
Leading the critics charge that the White House is exaggerating the potential impact of the budget slashing, Louisiana's Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters: "Enough's enough."
"The president needs to stop campaigning, stop trying to scare the American people, stop trying to scare states," said Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Asking the president to "show leadership," he said if the cuts were "truly devastating," then the administration should cut future programmes, such as Obama's signature healthcare measures, rather than chisel away at existing programmes.
In the same vein, South Carolina's Indian-American governor Nikki Haley dubbed Washington as "psychotic" as she criticised federal lawmakers for letting partisan bickering get in the way of balancing the budget.
"I could not be more frustrated than I am right now. How many more times are the governors going to have to pick up the mess of Washington, D.C.?"
"How many more times are we going to have to deal with these issues over and over again because of the finger pointing and the blame game that keeps on happening in Washington?" she asked.
In an obvious swipe against a week long holiday taken by the Congress in the midst of the looming crisis, and Obama's Presidents Day golf weekend in Florida, Haley said: "No one should be going home. No one should be playing golf. No one should be taking vacations."
"What they need to do is do what these governors do everyday," she continued. "We stay until we get it done."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)