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Blog: SITREP - April 28th 2013


Location: Unknown

This was a fairly slow week in Washington, so I'll keep this brief. The major development involved the furloughs of FAA employees. To make a long story short, the sequestration cuts which have been imposed across the government have been implemented by the Obama administration in a way that will make the pain the most severe and the most obvious. One of the earliest signs of that was when the administration announced that they were cancelling White House tours indefinitely. They didn't have to do that. The tours are self-guided and security measures controlling access to the White House are still extremely tight (obviously). But the President has been playing politics with the sequester. Indeed, there are emails from mid-level federal employees to their superiors suggesting ways that the impact of sequestration cuts could be mitigated by cutting specific programs instead of others. The reply from the superiors basically said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "do no such thing… make it hurt." So the 8,800 flight delays this week raised some suspicion on Capitol Hill. The FAA blamed it on the furloughs that were being implemented across the agency. But the President has the discretion to focus the cuts to the FAA on areas of their budget that would not result in the furloughs of traffic controllers. Despite having that authority, the President declined to use it. And when a group of senators offered to create legislation making that authority even more explicit, the President went so far as to threaten vetoing it. But the Senate went ahead anyway and unanimously voted to shift the cuts to a different program within the FAA and the House immediately followed suit. The President has indicated he is going to sign the bill into law… reluctantly. In the end, it wasn't that complicated. The required amount of money is still being saved and the problem is solved. To be clear, it is possible to continue providing a high level of service to the American people despite budget cuts. Just this morning, USA Today ran an article pointing to the fact that the budget for the House of Representatives is 15% lower this year than it was three years ago. We've cut $400 million out of our own operating budget -- and you know what? The United States Capitol is still open to the public for tours. Constituents who contact me still get an answer to their questions within two weeks. And any issues people are having getting through to the VA are still addressed by my office. In short, the United States House of Representatives is still fulfilling its mission and it is doing so at a lower cost to the taxpayer. That is exactly what needs to happen across the government. I know that the President doesn't want the cuts to his agencies' budgets, but he can be an effective manager and ensure that operating budgets are pared back without having to so pointedly hurt school kids visiting DC and the travelling public at large. I had to deal with budget cutbacks when I was Sheriff. But when those cuts happened, we still had deputies on the street. We still responded immediately to emergencies. We still caught criminals. We didn't whine and complain and pretend we couldn't do our jobs anymore. We simply cut back on the nice-to-have parts of our budget and focused on what it would take to fulfill our core mission. There is another name for making tough choices. It's called leadership. I'm sure the President is capable of doing that, I'm just not sure he's willing.

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