In Washington, House Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of not preparing for the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts; in addition, they are saying that the Obama administration attempted to scare people regarding the impact of these cuts.
According to Republican Darrell Issa, California, who is the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, “agency after agency acts surprised that a law signed by the President 19 months ago actually meant what it said.” Issa's committee held two hearings that outlined the impact of the budget cuts, also known as “sequester”, and discussed how the administration was to prepare for them. Each of these hearings turned into blaming arguments by lawmakers, each blaming the other side.
Republican Elijah Cummings of Maryland stated, “when you cut $85 billion out of a budget over the course of seven months there are consequences.” Elijah Cummings is the committee's senior Democrat. They want everyone to think this is the choice of the administration, which is not true.
According to a direct e-mail that I received from Congressman Bobby Scott, there was a Super Committee set up and this Super Committee failed to come up with a plan that would have prevented the “sequester”.
Republican John Mica, Florida, and former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, stated that the Homeland Security Department and its Transportation Safety Administration are the worst offenders. He attacked the department for their lack of planning for spending cuts and pointed the finger directly at Janet Napolitano's, who stated that “her form of torture” would be long waits at airport security lines. John Mica stated, “we should have the secretary out there screening people, and that this is the most shameful thing he has seen the administration do.”
Rafael Borras, who is the department's undersecretary in charge of the budget, said there was no effort to scare people. “There was an expectation that the sequester would not come to pass,” Borras said. “We're doing everything we can do to limit the impact.”
President Obama stated during the presidential debate between himself and GOP nominee Mitt Romney, “sequestration cuts will not happen.” Republican Jim Jordan, Ohio, told Michael Young, the budget director for the Agriculture Department that the USDA needed to anticipate potential cuts. He also had a slide show of the department's budget over the last four years, showing that it had been relatively flat. Jordan said, “You've had 20 months to get ready for this, August 2011, it seems to me that you should have been able to deal with this.”
Jordan asked Young is he had been directed to make the cuts more painful; Young said the opposite was true, that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack instructed him to implement cuts in an “equitable manner and least disruptive manner.”
In February, Vilsack issued a warning; that the budget cuts would force the USDA to furlough meat inspectors for as much as 15 days. Meatpacking plants require federal inspectors; having no inspectors could cause an industry wide slow down. Young also stated to Jordan that he did not know how long the meat inspectors might be furloughed.
Democrats were expressing frustration regarding the committee and the committee's questions regarding the impact of the sequester; they stated that the agencies had not fully grasped the situation. No one expected the sequester to kick in in 19 days.
Sequestration is not something new. In 1985, they passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act. The Supreme declared the automatic cuts unconstitutional and a revised version of the bill was passed in 1987. Congress evaded the cuts and the deficit continued to grow and in 1990 the plan was scrapped altogether and they came up with the Budget Enforcement Act and it included carefully chosen spending cuts.