“No one is taking the possibility of furloughs as seriously as they should,” said Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), whose Northern Virginia district has 60,000 federal workers. “They think we’re going to act like grown-ups and solve this. They’re giving us too much credit.”
He said he is doubtful that Congress will agree to stop the sequester quickly in favor of other spending cuts that could eliminate the need for furloughs. “That would mean someone would have to own the cuts, and no one wants to,” Moran said.
You’ve heard the word “sequester” mentioned by politicians a lot lately. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe explains what the term means, and why it matters.
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Republican leaders say it is President Obama who is letting the sequester happen by refusing to reduce spending in a government he has acknowledged could be leaner. “I don’t think there’s a person in America who thinks the size of Washington is too small,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “The president is choosing to cut critical things . . . but the White House is not banging down our doors demanding that we pass a bill to give agencies flexibility to avoid the sequester.”
The White House, which has surrounded Obama all week with federal workers who provide services the cuts would threaten, sought again Friday to blame Republicans for not stopping them. “The line they keep drawing in the sand is, ‘I don’t care what the public says. I don’t care who is hurt by it,’ ” press secretary Jay Carney said. “. . . The Republican position is cuts only, a burden borne only by senior citizens, children [and people with] disabilities.”
These would be the first widespread furloughs for the purpose of saving money. Non-essential employees were furloughed for a total of 28 days during government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 after Congress and the Clinton administration failed to pass a budget. And a dispute over FAA funding left 74,000 employees out of work for 12 days in 2011. But in each case employees were reimbursed for lost pay.
“We very much regret that furloughs will be enacted,” said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Defense Department spokeswoman. “We’re concerned about the degradation of the mission and the direct effects on our civilian colleagues and their families.” The Pentagon is making arrangements to offer employees financial and stress counseling.
Senior executives find themselves in the odd role of planning furloughs that will affect not just those they supervise but also themselves. Said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, “So many of them are concerned that they may be wrongly viewed as receiving special treatment.”
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