Roe: There's still time to change sequestration cuts

Hank Hayes • Feb 27, 2013 at 2:55 AM

Sequestration is on track to begin Friday, but there’s still time to change how some of those automatic federal spending cuts will happen, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe observed Wednesday.

Roe, R-Tenn., told reporters in a conference call that House Speaker John Boehner has had enough meetings despite ongoing calls from President Barack Obama to avert the sequester.

“There aren’t going to be any deals done by those three (Obama, Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid),” Roe pointed out.

But Roe noted there will be “time and latitude” to change how the cuts take place if a continuing budget resolution that runs out at the end of March is moved to the start of the federal budget year in October.

“I do think there will be a bipartisan agreement of some variety,” Roe said of a possible sequestration resolution. “The House has done its job. We have passed a sequester replacement bill that wasn’t acted on by the Senate, and we’re waiting for the Senate to do something. ... I don’t think there will be a government shutdown. ... The real debate is going to come when the (federal) debt ceiling runs out on May 19.”

Roe said 1st Congressional District constituents participating in a conference call Tuesday night “were pretty adamant” about wanting the sequester to happen.

Those sequestration cuts, passed by Congress in a budget control measure two years ago, amount to $85 billion in the first year and $1.2 trillion over 10 years for defense and non-defense programs.

“As I’ve been saying for 18 months, these cuts are real. ...This is a significant cut,” Roe said of sequestration. “The reason it is a significant cut is that it is only coming out of discretionary spending. It’s not coming out of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid or interest on the national debt. ... Will there be some effects? There will be.”

In its state-by-state breakdown on the sequester’s impact, the White House claimed Tennessee teachers’ jobs would be at risk, as well as funding for Head Start, child care, public health and nutrition assistance for seniors.

About 7,000 civilian Department of Defense (DOD) employees in Tennessee would be furloughed. But in Virginia, the White House projected approximately 90,000 civilian DOD workers would be furloughed and the state would lose more than a half billion dollars in payroll.

U.S. National Parks would be partially or fully closed, and the “vast majority” of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 47,000 employees would be furloughed one day per pay period, the White House breakdown said.

“The FAA, at a national level, is in the process of evaluating how they would need to adjust staffing to meet the required budget cuts,” TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson wrote in an email. “At this point, we have not been notified of any specific impact at (TCRA).”

The Veterans Administration, said the White House, is exempt from sequestration, but veterans’ transition assistance program would have to reduce operations.

“By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction,” the White House insisted. “We cannot simply cut our way to prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable, cuts-only approach, Tennessee risks paying the price.”

Roe, who pointed out he has cut spending in his congressional office by 20 percent, dismissed language the Obama Administration has used to sway House Republicans.

“(Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano says ‘We’re not going to be that safe.’ That’s nonsense. ... This scare tactic is almost comical that the world is going to end Friday,” Roe said. “It is not. ... Good managers can find that money.

“There will probably be some furloughs where people are asked to take time off if the sequester isn’t changed. Is it exactly the right way to do it? No, I don’t think it is. (But) not all the cuts are the same.”

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