GOP should pass sequester transfer authority bill

| February 21 2013
Mike DeVine

Yesterday, this column denounced President Barack Obama’s extreme fear-mongering attacks on the supposed consequences (including the action he has already taken in delaying the deployment of the usual second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf) of the automatic across-the-board “sequester” spending cuts totaling less than 3% of the federal budget, scheduled for March 1, 2013.

At no time during his 19th Hole demagoguery did the Chief Executive demand that Congress grant him “transfer authority” that would allow him to move available funds between defense and non-defense accounts in order to avoid the supposed draconian cuts made inevitable by the sequester that he proposed to Congress in 2011 but now denounces as irresponsible and extreme.

We don’t believe that spending cuts so puny mandate reductions in national security, emergency response, air traffic safety or any of the rest of the litany of horribles spewed forth by the Commander-in-Chief yesterday. But to “know” for sure what is and is not the state of budget affairs before and after the scheduled 2+% cuts, one would have to devote oneself to a study of the equivalent of Egyptian hieroglyphs to follow the rat holes one has to travel down in budget bills and executive branch accounts.

But luckily, Charles Krauthammer has time on his hands:

Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer says President Obama could easily reduce the fear and panic engendered by the looming sequester if he would simply push Congress to pass a bill allowing a transfer of funds from less important federal accounts to more important federal accounts.

“And the president is the one who ought to propose it,” Krauthammer told Fox News on Wednesday. “He won’t, of course, because he is looking for a fight, and not a solution.”…

…Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, said unless Congress gives federal agencies transfer authority — and lawmakers could pass a bill to do that — layoffs may happen, because agencies won’t be able to shift money from less important accounts to more important accounts.

Holtz-Eakin told Fox New’s Brett Baier on Wednesday that the sequester requires indiscriminate, across-the-board reductions in the growth of spending, half of them affecting the Defense budget and half affecting non-defense spending.

“But when you get underneath the surface, the federal budget is divided into thousands of different accounts,” Holtz-Eakin explained. “Each account gets cut by the same amount, regardless of what’s in it. So, we have some accounts that are payroll, some accounts that are conferences, travel, whatever it may be. They’ll get the same cut, regardless of what’s in there.”

Without transfer authority, “you can’t shift the money around…There’s no ability to ship money to high priority projects, and you know, low priority takes the cut. Everybody gets a cut regardless.”

Fine, House Republicans should go ahead and pass a transfer authority bill to better defend themselves from the sure-to-be media-assisted blame game after the sequester. They should not wait in silence for President Obama to ask for it. Of course, the GOP House has already passed  legislation with specific spending cuts to replace the sequester that eliminate the ability of the President to claim impending disaster. But, again, of course, the President is refusing to let the 24/7 crisis aka his presidency go to waste and using the impending sequester as yet another opportunity to demand that “the rich” pay more in taxes. No word yet on why the tax hikes already passed this year are no longer their “fair share”.

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

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