Obama Official's Email: Push Idea of Sequestration Cuts as Painful

Wednesday, 06 Mar 2013 07:42 AM

By Matthew Auerbach

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An email sent out by the Obama administration earlier this week appears to show a strategy designed to drive home the most dire predictions of the effects of sequestration, even if that is not necessarily the case.

Charles Brown, an official with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Raleigh, N.C., sent an email to Washington officials asking “if there was any latitude” in how to spread the sequester cuts across the region to lessen the impacts on fish inspections.

Brown received the following 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.'

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"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.”

On Saturday, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts began to go into effect, leaving the Obama White House with tough decisions to make on cuts. Administration officials have argued repeatedly that their hands are tied by the way the cuts were written into law.

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., said he believes this email reveals Obama’s true motives.

“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,” Griffin said.

APHIS is an agency overseen by the Agriculture Department.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kristi Noem, R- S.D., confronted department Secretary Tom Vilsack with the email at a House committee hearing.

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.

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“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,” Vilsack 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.”

Noem told Vilsack the email made it seem like the administration was foregoing flexibility in order to justify their worst-case scenarios.

“I’m hopeful that isn’t an agenda that’s been put forward,” Noem said.

Late Tuesday evening, the Agriculture Department issued a statement disputing Brown’s read of the situation, the Washington Times reported. The department said Brown had suggested dividing his region’s cuts among a number of states but he was told that idea was already part of their sequester plans.

“The APHIS budget officer explained that USDA is already proposing these steps in order to avoid furloughs. USDA is committed to doing all we can to minimize the impact of sequester [for] our employees and the farmers, ranchers, and rural communities we serve,” the department said in its statement.

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