One of the amber-encased pieces of conventional wisdom regarding the sequester is that the Administration has no room to maneuver on what spending it can reduce. The sequester demands across-the-board, so it gets across-the-board, supposedly.
Byron York (DC Examiner) explains how that is completely untrue:
Congress tells executive branch agencies how much money they can spend and how they should spend it. Sometimes the instructions are broad, and sometimes they are quite detailed. Cabinet secretaries and lower-downs are bound to work within those congressional directives.
But if Cabinet officers want to spend the money differently, there is a long-established process for doing so: They ask Congress for permission. It happens all the time, with lawmakers routinely giving the executive branch the OK to spend money in different ways than originally planned.
That could be happening now. All those Obama administration officials complaining about across-the-board cuts dictated by sequestration could come up with plans to make the same amount of cuts in ways that would create fewer problems for federal workers and services. Then they could ask Congress for permission to do so. Lawmakers would say yes, and things would be fine.
But it’s not happening. And the fault is not with Congress.
In recent weeks, House Republicans have been virtually begging administration officials to ask for permission to move money around. If one program could be more easily cut than others, those Republicans say, just ask us, and we’ll let you do it.
“We sent out on Feb. 28 a letter to every Cabinet officer asking them what changes they’d like to have — pluses, subtractions and so on — to give them an opportunity to show us at least one program they would like to have cut, which would then save on sequestration,” Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview Tuesday night. “We did not receive a single answer.”
In other words, any federal department that wanted to prioritize funding during the sequester could have asked Congress to let them do it. In fact, they still can. They’re just choosing not to do so. Congressional Committee chairs have even asked the Departments why they haven’t come forward asking for the authority to move money around in order to protect what they (the Departments) think are vital programs. The Education Department responded: “The wheels are turning.” This is the same Education Department that claimed the sequester would lead to teacher firings…
The last quote from Chairman Issa says it all: “If you find programs that you can cut altogether or programs that you can combine, the authority for it would be only hours away.”
Yet the Administration that can scream bloody murder to any camera in sight…has no answer for Congress.