At a recent committee hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan asked officials from the Transportation and Education departments a simple question. Since they've known about sequestration for a long time and also know they have the ability to ask Congress to reprogram money, why haven't they responded to Issa's letter offering help?
The officials had no answers. "Those wheels are turning," said the man from the Education Department, indicating that, whatever crisis sequestration presents, the bureaucracy will take its time to respond.
It turned out that the officials had done little or no preparing for sequestration and instead focused on drastic measures -- things like closing down one of the two air traffic control towers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport -- to deal with it.
"I would think that most public servants would want to do what's in the best interest of the taxpayers and the public, and not try to do things for political gain," Jordan said in an interview later. "But let's be honest. Some of the statements we've heard from the administration run counter to what we hope public officials would do."
In the meantime, the administration continues to advertise new job openings for decidedly nonessential positions. (For example, why is the Federal Aviation Administration looking for a couple of "community planners"?) "What's going on is total tone-deafness from the administration," says one frustrated Senate GOP aide. "They are posting for new, low-priority jobs while announcing furloughs. If they have money to make new hires, why not use those funds to prevent furloughs? It's absurd."
Sequestration is still in its early stages. There is still time for the Obama administration to have a change of heart and try to enact cuts in the least dramatic, least obtrusive way. Certainly, Rep. Issa remains ready to go. Congress can move very quickly on something like this, he said, making an open offer to the administration: "If you find programs that you can cut altogether or programs that you can combine, the authority for it would be only hours away."