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Obama to govs: Push Congress to avert automatic cuts

Updated 2:15pm ET -- Against a backdrop of impending automatic budget cuts, President Barack Obama on Monday urged the nation's governors to press Washington lawmakers into action to avert the looming sequester. 

"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 said during a White House address to the National Governors Association, which is holding its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. 

"All of us are elected officials," he said. "All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party's as well as the other party's. But at some point we've got to do some governing." 

President Barack Obama challenges members of Congress to compromise in order to avoid automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to take place on Friday.

Seeking to contrast the leadership of executives of the nation's 50 states with what he described as the parochial concerns of members of Congress, Obama slammed the latter for an "obsession" with politics over governance. 

"I know that sometimes folks in Congress think that compromise is a bad word, and they figure they will pay a higher price at the polls for working with the other side than they will for standing pat or engaging in obstructionism," he said. "But as governors - some of you with legislatures controlled by the other party - you know that compromise is essential to getting things done."

Obama said that Democrats will have to swallow "modest" reforms to Medicare in exchange for the closure of tax loopholes resisted by Republicans who argue spending cuts must be prioritized over new revenues. 

The president's characterization of Congress echoed frustration voiced by his second-in-command, Vice President Joe Biden, who told the group earlier that Washington is "frozen - not in indifference - but in sort of an intense partisanship the likes of which in my career I've only seen in the last couple years." 

The across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect Friday are the subject of much finger-pointing as affected industries brace for the coming drain of federal funding. 

Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama addresses the National Governors Association, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.

The administration has deployed surrogates and cabinet secretaries - including transportation chief Ray LaHood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano - to warn of the consequences of the sequestration's reductions for air travel and border security. 

But many in the GOP have accused the White House of overstating the impact of the cuts. 

"I think he's trying to scare the American people," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal after a closed-door meeting between the governors' group and the president. "He needs to stop. He needs to start providing real leadership."

Jindal, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, said the president rejected his idea of holding off on implementation of his new health care law until the more immediate harmful cuts are offset.  

The Louisiana governor also suggested that the president rebuffed a proposal that Congress should authorize greater flexibility for the implementation of the cuts.

"The answer to everything we got was no," added South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.