SEQUESTER MEMO: ‘Make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be’…
(Washington Times) – The White House announced Tuesday that it is canceling tours of the president’s home for the foreseeable future as the sequester spending cuts begin to bite and the administration makes good on its warnings of painful decisions.
Announcement of the decision — made in an email from the White House Visitors Office — came hours after The Washington Times reported on another administration email that seemed to show at least one agency has been instructed to make sure the cuts are as painful as President Obama promised they would be.
The Obama administration denied an appeal for flexibility in lessening the sequester’s effects, with an email this week appearing to show officials in Washington that because they already had promised the cuts would be devastating, they now have to follow through on that.
In the email sent Monday by Charles Brown, an official with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Raleigh, N.C., Mr. Brown asked “if there was any latitude” in how to spread the sequester cuts across the region to lessen the impacts on fish inspections.
He said he was discouraged by officials in Washington, who gave him this reply: “We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”
“This email confirms what many Americans have suspected: The Obama administration is doing everything they can to make sure their worst predictions come true and to maximize the pain of the Sequester cuts for political gain,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, Arkansas Republican.
Mr. Brown, the official who sent the email and who is eastern regional director for wildlife services at APHIS, didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.
APHIS is an agency within the Agriculture Department, and on Tuesday department Secretary Tom Vilsack was challenged on the email at a House committee hearing by Rep. Kristi Noem, who said she hoped the department wouldn’t tie agencies’ hands.
Mr. Vilsack said he hadn’t seen the email, but said agencies are supposed to be trying to find ways to manage the impact of the cuts.
“If we have flexibility, we’re going to try to use it to make sure we use sequester in the most equitable and least disruptive way,” the secretary testified. “There are some circumstances, and we’ve talked a lot about the meat inspection, where we do not have that flexibility because there are so few accounts.”
The administration earlier had warned that supplies of beef, pork and poultry could drop this year because slaughterhouse inspectors will have to be furloughed, and under federal law meat can’t be processed without inspectors present.
Ms. Noem told Mr. Vilsack the email made it sound like the administration was sacrificing flexibility in order to justify dire predictions.
“I’m hopeful that isn’t an agenda that’s been put forward,” the South Dakota Republican congresswoman told Mr. Vilsack.
The $85 billion in sequesters began Friday, and have hit most of the federal government, where employees will face furloughs.
But even amid the cuts, APHIS is still hiring new employees and interns.
Since Sunday the agency has posted 24 help-wanted ads including 22 student internships, one ad seeking a clerk in a New York office, and one ad seeking three “insect production workers” to grow bollworms in Phoenix.