Senators Pitch Dueling Plans to Reverse Furloughs

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., called a Democratic plan to halt sequestration "budget cowardice on the backs of our warfighters." Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., called a Democratic plan to halt sequestration "budget cowardice on the backs of our warfighters." Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Several Senators have introduced legislation to cancel sequestration or reduce its impact for fiscal 2013, following a proposal introduced by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., earlier this week.

Announcing his own plan, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., rebuked Reid’s proposal, which would use savings from the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan to offset the automatic budget cuts through September.

“Sen. Reid’s amendment dodges the hard decisions necessary to restore fiscal responsibility and instead takes from those who are willing to sacrifice it all on our nation’s behalf,” Inhofe said in a statement. “It’s budget cowardice on the backs of our warfighters.”  

Inhofe, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., put forward a modified version of a bill they introduced in February to give President Obama more flexibility in implementing sequestration cuts in the current fiscal year. The proposal would allow the White House to make the requisite cuts “from any discretionary appropriations or direct spending account.”

“The across-the-board cuts of sequestration are irresponsible and do not distinguish high priority programs from low priority spending,” Inhofe said in a statement when the original bill was introduced. “This bill is not the substitute for fixing sequestration and putting a stop on further defense cuts. However, until that solution is found, this bill would make a potentially devastating situation a little more manageable.”

That bill failed in the Senate by a 32-68 vote. Obama had threatened to veto the legislation because it prohibited the use of any new tax revenues in order to offset the cuts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also issued a striking criticism of Reid’s bill, calling it “the height of fiscal irresponsibility.”

“The President rejected the flexibility we proposed on the sequester for obvious political reasons,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “He wanted these cuts to be as painful as possible for folks across the country and to provide an excuse to raise taxes to turn them off.”

Reid rejected the notion that shifting around funds could make sequestration bearable.

“The pain is too severe,” he said. “It can't be balanced out.”

Late Thursday, the Senate passed legislation to increase sequestration flexibility at the Federal Aviation Administration aimed at reducing flight delays by allowing FAA and the Transportation Department -- its parent agency -- to transfer funds between accounts. This would prevent air traffic controllers from being furloughed, the bill's proponents said.

“America’s economy runs on transportation, including air travel, and delays like we’re seeing this week are disrupting commerce and causing real inconvenience for travelers,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who introduced the bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement. “Our bill addresses the issue directly and in a bipartisan way by giving the secretary of Transportation the flexibility he needs to prioritize his budget and put air traffic controllers back on the job for America’s traveling public.” 

The House was expected to take up the proposal on Friday.

Two Republican House committee leaders -- Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa. -- wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday alleging his department already has the flexibility it needs to avoid FAA furloughs.

This story was updated to note the passage of the Hoeven-Klobuchar bill to end air traffic controller furloughs.


Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.