The administration has rejected the approach, saying federal spending has already been so reduced in other budget deals that the focus should now be on how to raise additional federal revenue, by repealing some corporate tax breaks for example, along with targeted budget cuts.
Republicans say Obama is exaggerating the impact to strengthen his negotiating position.
Jindal, in Washington for National Governors Association meetings, said Feb. 25 that Obama needed to "stop trying to scare the American people."
In a Feb. 21 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the department could protect national security missions by cutting programs already identified as wasteful.
By eliminating "wasteful, duplicative, ineffective and low-priority programs first," the department "can successfully navigate sequestration and continue to perform its vital functions," Coburn wrote.
The agency says that is not true.
"We do not have the luxury of making significant reductions to our capabilities without significant impacts," said Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for DHS. Coburn said in the letter that "additional legal authority" may be needed to target budget cuts.
Napolitano has told Congress the cuts could increase airport wait times and leave less money available to defend against cyber attacks.
Americans who had to cut their own budgets during the recession may not understand why it's so hard for federal agencies to cut their budgets by the amount required in the sequestration, said John Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications in Washington.
"Most people believe that the government could spend a little less money," Feehery, who was a House Republican spokesman in 1995 when a showdown with President Bill Clinton led to a government shutdown, said in an interview. "A 5 percent cut? For most folks, they've had to do that in their own budgets."
Even after the March 1 deadline passes, Americans may not immediately feel an impact, said Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based public policy group aligned with Democrats. Federal workplace furloughs won't start until April, so services may continue largely unchanged for the first few weeks.
As workplace absences mount and money grows tighter, the pressure from the public will grow, Lilly said.
"It's going to be a country with its hair on fire," said Lilly, a former Democratic staff director to the House Appropriations Committee. "There are a thousand things in there that are going to upset people."
The threat of sequestration is already having an effect, said Rich Gold, a lobbyist at Holland & Knight.
Gold, whose clients include First Energy Corp. in Akron, Ohio, and Dow Chemical Co., in Midland, Mich., said the businesses and local governments he represents no longer have confidence that lawmakers can work through differences.
"The real problem is, at the end of the day, nobody knows what's going to happen," Gold said in an interview. "The uncertainty is what's really holding back the economy, and this is a major dose of uncertainty."