Change: White House Urges Flexibility on Sequester Reductions

Posted: Apr 05, 2013 12:27 PM

In a reversal, the Obama administration is counseling federal agencies to fund ways to soften the blow of the so-called sequester "cuts."  The White House had previously worked assiduously to make the small spending reductions as feel as painful as possible, in service of their political narrative:

The White House budget office on Thursday urged federal agencies to be aware of ways they may be able to shield their long-term projects while implementing the sharp budget cuts that went into effect March 1. Agencies should avoid cuts that would harm needed upkeep or unduly disrupt programs "essential to support the long-term execution of the agency's mission," White House budget office controller Danny Werfel wrote in a memo. The budget office has already counseled flexibility, but Werfel has now provided agencies more detailed guidance about how to minimize long-term effects of the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts. "Sequestration provides an agency with little discretion in deciding where and how to reduce spending," Werfel said. "However, depending on an agency's account structure and any existing flexibilities provided by law, some agencies may have a limited ability to realign funds to protect mission priorities." Agencies that find themselves with unspent funds should apply them to core functions that would not leave them short in future years, he said. Initially, the White House warned that there would be little flexibility in avoiding the effects of the cuts. In February, Werfel said that no matter how agencies attempt to soften the blows, the disruptions would be harmful to their missions.

During the sequestration fight, Senate Republicans offered a plan that would have afforded the White House increased flexibility in prioritizing cuts, authority that could help shield these very "core functions."  The president threatened to veto that idea.  He was too invested in blaming others for this hands being tied to allow his preferred scapegoats to untie his hands.  The sequester reductions -- which trimmed $44 billion from FY 2013's $3.8 trillion projected budget -- were proposed by Obama, who signed them into law.  So draconian were these cuts that the federal government...still stands to spend more this year than last.  Earlier this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the administration "absolutely" did not mislead the American people on the consequences of sequestration:

The public and economists disagree, as do independent fact-checkers and other outlets who exposed the White House's sequester-related lies on a host of claims.  Today's ugly jobs report is a pre-sequestration indication that hiring is again slowing, and that happy days aren't right around the corner.  The White House spinmeisters must have their hands full, especially as more Americans shrug off their dire, inflated warnings about the puny sequester spending reductions.