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“Let’s be very clear; Democrats in the House are trying to resolve it, Democrats in the Senate are trying to resolve it, President Obama is trying to resolve it and the Republicans are making a policy choice that these cuts are better for the economy than eliminating loopholes and benefits for the wealthy,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Sunday during the conference call with reporters.

“It should be easy for Republicans to do, but they are so focused on not giving the president a win.”

Mr. LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, also called on GOP members of Congress to put partisan politics aside and work with Mr. Obama to get a deal down to avoid the cuts.

“My audience is trying to persuade my former [congressional] colleagues that they need to come to the table with a proposal,” he said. “While the president has, the Republicans haven’t.”

The series of federal spending cuts — set into motion by the 2011 debt deal and delayed two months as part of the New Year’s Eve deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” — would reduce the discretionary budgets of most agencies and programs by up to about 10 percent. A few notable exemptions apply, such as Social Security, veterans programs and education Pell Grants. And the sequester spared Medicare from a 2 percent cut to medical providers.

The sequesters never were intended to be implemented. Rather, they were meant to be so onerous that all sides involved would be inspired to find other, more palatable ways to lower the debt and deficit.

Republicans, who initially balked at the pending Pentagon cuts, have concluded the sequesters offer their best immediate chances for real spending cuts.

Sen. Tom Coburn on Sunday accused the administration of “absolutely” exaggerating the potential adverse effects of the sequesters.

“You see the typical setup, a straw man,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Oklahoma Republican, who said he doesn’t think a deal will be reached in time to avoid the cuts, added federal agencies such as the Homeland Security and Transportation departments have “plenty of flexibility” to find ways to implement the cuts in ways that don’t compromise safety or national security.

“There’s easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel,” he said. “What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending. … It will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country.”

But Danny Werfel, controller of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, said federal agency heads have “limited flexibility” in how to impose the cuts.

“All of these various disruptions and harmful impacts — they’re going to occur,” he told reporters on the conference call. “We can try to mitigate some of them, and we are to the best of our ability. … [But] when you’re taking an $85 billion cut over a seven-month period, there is no road map of flexibility that allows you to eliminate many, many of the disruptions that are going to occur.”