No Smart Way? White House Whiplash

| April 26 2013

No Smart Way?
White House Whiplash

Avoiding the sequester was “not impossible.” Or maybe it was. The White House’s hands are tied when it comes to granting agencies flexibility. Well, actually, except for meat inspectors. And Customs and Border Protection. And the Bureau of Prisons. And TSA. And Vice President Joe Biden’s office. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)? Definitely no flexibility for them. Taxpayers are waiting for hours at the airport, airline industry officials are saying the furloughs are unnecessary, and all the while, FAA is still managing to spend $474 million on a project to “make communities more livable and sustainable.” But maybe the issue is that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta hasn’t actually asked Congress for flexibility in implementing the budget cuts.

 

AVOIDING SEQUESTER “NOT IMPOSSIBLE” ACCORDING TO SOME IN THE WHITE HOUSE

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)

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA DISAGREES

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)

 

MAYBE IF YOU ASK NICELY…

VIDEO: FAA Administrator Complains About Lack Of Flexibility In Implementing Cuts, Admits He Never Asked For It. 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)

FLASHBACK: Aviation Coalitions: Give FAA Flexibility In Implementing Cuts Like Other Federal Agencies. ”While other federal agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CPB), Meat Inspectors (USDA) and Bureau of Prisons (DOJ), have taken steps to avoid furloughing their essential operational personnel, the FAA believes they have not been given the same flexibility,’ [a coalition of aviation associations] wrote in a letter to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.” (Mike M. Ahlers, “Airlines ask court to block FAA furloughs,” CNN, 4/19/13)

 

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