By Amie Parnes - 02/22/13 07:41 PM EST
The White House unleashed Democratic governors on Republicans Friday, escalating its blame game over the looming sequester.
Democratic governors blasted Republicans over the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set for March 1 after a White House meeting with President Obama.
“Our message to our Republican colleagues is ‘Speak up, stand up. Or be part of the problem. Let's not stand in the way of progress,’ ” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday.
“After the longest recession, we are finally coming out of this mess, thanks to the president's leadership,” he added.
The missives from Democratic governors was part of a two-pronged White House effort Friday intended to raise pressure on congressional Republicans.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, also showed up at the White House briefing to warn of longer lines and delays at the nation’s airports if workers are furloughed.
Obama wants the sequester to be put off or replaced with a package of spending cuts and tax hikes targeting the wealthy and special interests, while Republicans argue a replacement bill should include only spending cuts.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) fired back after the briefing, reiterating that the Republican House approved two bills to replace the sequester in 2012.
In an email to reporters, he said the two bills are “chock-full of Republican ideas,” before digging at LaHood with a reference to the movie “Aliens.”
“To paraphrase the great Bill Paxton,” Steel wrote, “Maybe he hasn't been keeping up on current events.”
Other governors attending the meeting with Obama included Martin O'Malley of Maryland and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.
The White House messaging effort underlined Obama’s strategy of side-stepping negotiations with Congress to take the spending fight directly to the public. In a string of events and interviews, Obama has sought to put the blame squarely on GOP lawmakers.
The president did make calls Thursday on the sequester to Boehner and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Obama’s confidence has likely been boosted by recent polls underlining that he has political winds behind his back.
A new Bloomberg National poll shows that 55 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the president’s job performance, his highest level of support since September 2009. The same poll indicated that only 35 percent approved of the performance of Republican lawmakers, their lowest level since 2009.
LaHood warned that slashing $600 million from the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget would having lasting effects and would cause the closure of air traffic control towers along with thousands of furloughs. Most of all, it would cause delays at airports and in his words, "Nobody likes a delay."
LaHood acknowledged that he was making an appearance in the briefing room for one main purpose: to offer a sharp rebuke to members of his own party.
"I think Republicans need to step up here. ... This requires compromise," he said. "This requires Republicans stepping forward with some ideas about how to keep essential services of government running."