Bring on the Cuts: Some Want the Sequester


Looming over the discussion is the possibility that Congress will pass some kind of workaround, letting federal agents spread the cuts to less-critical areas.

The indiscriminate cuts have been called "stupid" on more than one occasion, but the White House Office of Management and Budget said agencies have little flexibility to pick and choose how to save money. According to the law drafted and signed in 2011, the cuts are spread evenly at the program level, an OMB official told ABC News this week.

However, some people just think the cuts won't be as bad as advertised.

Leading that charge is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who questioned the recent hyperventilating on "Fox News Sunday."

"Look, the federal government is twice the size it was 11 years ago. We are spending almost $4,000 per person, per year," Coburn said. "Some of it is not smart. But it's the only way Washington, Republicans and Democrats, are ever going to get out of both parties some spending cuts."

Part of Coburn's bring-on-the-sequester attitude is driven by a belief that agencies do have the flexibility to prevent it from being so disastrous, despite their complaints.

"If the secretary of transportation can assure us all the planes are going to be safe, then the Department of Homeland Security can assure us that we can get through the airports on time," Coburn said. "They have plenty of flexibility in terms of discretion on how they spend money. There are easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel."

Coburn's spokesman, John Hart, pointed out that OMB has urged agencies to use all the flexibility at their disposal, and that agencies can still cut spending on the least critical elements within a given program.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., agreed.

"The sequester does not have to mean furloughs," Pompeo said in a statement released to the media as part of a back-and-forth with White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday. "The president is choosing to make this minor reduction in spending painful -- by furloughing people -- in order to pursue his twin goals of raising taxes and increasing the size of the federal government."

Pompeo called the sequester a "home run" and said it "begins to put America back on the right fiscal track."

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, noted in a memo to reporters that the sequester amounts to "just two cents" -- more accurately, 2.3 cents, according to the Congressional Budget Office -- out of every dollar the federal government spends.

"$85 billion is negligible compared to Obama's disastrous fiscal record," the RNC wrote.

The free-enterprise group Club for Growth isn't too worried about sequestration, either.

"We're in favor of Congress doing what they said they were going to do," said the group's spokesman, Barney Keller -- meaning enact sequestration as promised, after the ill-fated deficit "supercommittee" failed to garner a deficit deal in 2011.

Congress and Obama agreed on sequestration as the intentionally unpleasant consequence if the supercommittee failed. Since then, they've twice extended their own deadline, pushing the sequester back and giving themselves more time to negotiate.

Obama suggested last week that Congress should pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" to delay the sequester once more and give Republicans and Democrats more time to reach a long-term deal.

"We're OK with reconfiguring it," Keller said. "We don't care where the cuts come from. We just think they should do the cuts."

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