No Smart Way? Question For The White House

| April 26 2013

No Smart Way?
Question for the White House

For months the White House has warned of the dire consequences of the sequester, maintained there is “no smart way” to cut spending and even threatened to veto a bill that would give them that flexibility.  They were wrong.  After insisting for months that the only way to deal with a 1.4 percent budget cut in the Department of Transportation was to furlough air traffic controllers and cause massive delays, it took less than a week for Congress to find a better way.  As more and more agencies prove that the cuts can be made, will the White House stand by its previous claims?

 

WILL THE WHITE HOUSE STAND BY ITS CLAIM THERE’S “NO SMART WAY” TO CUT SPENDING?

President Obama: “No Smart Way” To Cut $85 Billion: “The problem is, when you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months … there’s no smart way to do that. There’s no smart way to do that.” (“Obama on Sequester Cuts: ‘There’s No Smart Way To Do That,’” Real Clear Politics, 2/26/13)

 

Despite Warnings That Massive Delays Were Unavoidable, Congress Finds A Smarter Way To Implement Cuts:

RHETORIC: Administration Claims It Cannot Trim Its Budget Without Sending Air Traffic Controllers Home: “The administration is saying that the Department of Transportation cannot squeeze 1.4 percent of its budget without sending air traffic controllers home and that they cannot find a way to operate effectively this year with a budget that is actually larger than the budget they had last year.” (Jonathan Karl, “Devastating Sequester Spending Cuts? Give Me a Break!” ABC News, 2/22/13)

DoT Secretary Ray LaHood On FAA Furloughs: “A Billion Dollars Is A Lot Of Money.”  ABC’s Jonathan Karl Asks Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood About Sequester Cuts To Department Of Transportation At White House Press Briefing:

LaHood: There has to be some impact in order to save a billion dollars. A billion dollars is a lot of money.

Karl: Let’s be clear: It’s less than 2 percent of your budget.

LaHood: It’s a lot of money, Jonathan.

(Jonathan Karl, “Devastating Sequester Spending Cuts? Give Me a Break!” ABC News, 2/22/13)

REALITY: Senate Unanimously Approves Measure To Give The FAA Flexibility To Make Smarter Cuts. “Many lawmakers had already left Washington for a coming weeklong recess when the Senate unanimously approved a measure to give the Transportation Department, which administers the Federal Aviation Administration, more budget flexibility to reduce the number of FAA furloughs. Under the bill, the FAA would be able to redirect up to $253 million from other areas of its budget to shore up staffing and operations.” (Kristina Peterson and Jack Nicas, “Senate Passes Bill To Ease Air-Travel Delays,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/26/13)

Just Two Days Earlier, The FAA Administrator Said He Has Not Asked Congress For Flexibility: FAA Administrator Michael Huerta: “I don’t have the flexibility to transfer from my facilities and equipment account, which funds those projects, to the operations account.” Rep. Hal Rogers: “Have you asked the Congress for those changes to allow you to do that?” Huerta: “No.” (House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Hearing, “President’s 2014 FAA Budget Request,” C-SPAN, 4/24/13)

National Air Traffic Controllers Association Applauds Bipartisan Legislation. “We urge swift approval of this measure so that controllers can return to work full time and passengers and carriers can operate without the threat of unnecessary delays.” (Josh Hicks, “Senators Propose Bipartisan Bill To End FAA’s Controller Furloughs,” Washington Post, 4/25/13)

Chicago Tribune Editorial: “Over the year and a half since President Barack Obama signed the law that required spending curbs through sequestration in 2013, you haven’t seen the FAA, or its parent the Transportation Department, or its parent the White House, trying to absorb a relatively small budget cut in ways that would least inconvenience fliers and least imperil the U.S. economy. Quite the opposite: This whole exercise appears to have been an effort to demonstrate that the federal enterprise cannot survive cuts to the growth of spending.” (Editorial, “The Stunt Pilots Misread Their Guages,” The Chicago Tribune, 4/26/13)

 

THE FAA IS JUST THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF AGENCIES FINDING SMARTER WAYS TO CUT

Attorney General Announces No Furloughs At Justice Department:

Department of Justice Will Not Need to Furlough Employees. “Attorney General Eric Holder says he will not need to furlough any Justice Department employees in the current fiscal year. The attorney general says he will be able to avoid furloughs because of additional money in the recently enacted legislation, combined with aggressive steps to freeze hiring and cut contracting and other costs.” (“Holder: No Furloughs At Justice Department, CBS News, 4/24/13)

Attorney General Eric Holder: “After careful review of our current financial situation and the additional funding we received in the final FY 2013 bill, combined with aggressive steps to freeze hiring and cut contracting and other costs, I am able to announce that the Department will not need to furlough any employees this fiscal year due to sequestration.” (David Nather, “Eric Holder: No Justice Department Furloughs This Year,” POLITICO, 4/25/13)

Biden’s Office, Other Agencies Avoid Furloughs:

Joe Biden’s Office Avoids Furloughs, Pay Cuts; Found Other Ways To Make Budget Cuts. “Like most of the federal government, the office of the vice president is subject to across the board spending cuts, but an administration official tells me Biden’s office has been able to do what the FAA – and president’s own staff – have been unable to do: make the required spending cuts without furloughing any employees. The VP’s office, I am told, is not furloughing anybody and not requiring any staff to take pay cuts. They have found other ways to make the required budget cuts. The VP’s office won’t say how they have made the cuts.” (Jonathan Karl, “Sheriff Joe Biden Avoids Furloughs,” ABC News, 4/23/13)

Meat Inspectors Avoided Furloughs In A “Special Step” From Congress. “Congress approved $55 million on Thursday to prevent the furlough of all U.S. meat inspectors this summer, a step that could have driven up meat prices and created spot shortages in grocery stores and restaurants. … In a special step, lawmakers shifted $55 million in Agriculture Department funding so that its food safety agency would have enough money to keep its 8,400 inspectors on the job.” (Charles Abbott, “US meat inspector furloughs avoided as Congress approves funding,” Reuters, 3/21/13)

FLASHBACK: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough In February Said Finding Savings To Offset Sequester Was “Not Impossible.” Jonathan Karl: “Is it really impossible to find less than 3 percent of savings in a federal budget to avoid those kind of horrible cuts?” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough: “You know what, it’s not impossible.” (“This Week,” ABC News, 2/17/13)

 

WILL THE WHITE HOUSE STAND BY ITS PREVIOUS POSITIONS?

White House Threatened To Veto A Bill Intended To Give Them Discretion: “The White House threatened to veto the Senate GOP’s bill aimed at giving the president flexibility to target spending cuts — ripping the idea for protecting corporate tax exemptions.” (Steven Dennis, “White House Threatens To Veto GOP Sequester Bill,” Roll Call, 2/28/13)

Carney: Bill With “Enough Flexibility To Do Away With All The Bad Things Doesn’t Exist.” “A bill that ‘introduced enough flexibility to do away with all the bad things doesn’t exist,’ [White House Press Secretary Jay Carney] said.” (Anith Kumar and William Douglas, “Republicans Propose Flexible Cuts as Sequestration Option,” The Sacramento Bee, 3/20/13)

Carney: No Amount Of Discretion Would Help. “Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, dismissed the Republican plan, saying that no amount of flexibility could mitigate the damage of the automatic cuts. He said such changes could help only ‘on the margins.’”(Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, G.O.P Drafts Plan to Give Obama Discretion on Cuts,” The New York Times, 2/26/13)

 

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