President Barack Obama praises Gov. Bill Haslam

photo Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a legislative planning session sponsored by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association in Nashville.

WASHINGTON - Shunning the partisan rancor surrounding the nation's latest budget battle, President Barack Obama on Monday praised Tennessee's top Republican as a model for a stubborn Congress.

Hosting the nation's governors at the White House, Obama singled out Gov. Bill Haslam as a flexible leader House and Senate Republicans should imitate. The mention came right after the president slammed fiscal hawks for refusing to bend on $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin Friday.

Nine congressional Republicans call Tennessee home and consider Haslam an important political ally. But unlike them, Obama hinted, governors know "compromise is essential to getting things done."

"That's