President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. / AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Members of the Kansas Congressional delegation are speaking out about the automatic budget cuts set to take affect March 1st unless a deal is reached.
From the office of U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins:
House Republican Conference Vice Chair Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) issued the following statement Tuesday in response to President Obama’s remarks in Newport News, Virginia, and how the sequester’s arbitrary spending cuts will affect military readiness:
“The problem with the sequester is not how much the spending cuts amount to, it is how the cuts are made. There is a better way to cut spending that allows more flexibility and prioritization, and avoids cutting essential programs. The House accomplished this in two bills we passed earlier this year by recommending smarter and more strategic spending reforms. Now the ball is in the Senate’s court, and I would ask the president to stop campaigning, come back to Washington, and work with Sen. Harry Reid to actually pass a bill to fix this mess.
“To imply we cannot cut 2.5 percent of our budget without hurting seniors or reducing America’s ability to protect its citizens is ludicrous. Even if the sequester goes into effect, we are still spending more money today than we spent last year, and collecting more in taxes than ever before. What hardworking American family has not had to cut 2 percent from their budget in recent years? And why can’t Congress do the same?
“Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it best, ‘the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt.’ And although, cutting funding for military training and education programs, like those at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, will have a negative impact on our military readiness, borrowing money from other countries is also not a sustainable or prudent way to finance our national defense programs. We must reduce the waste and inefficiencies in the budget, and we cannot do this without a willing partner in the Senate.”
From the office of Sen. Pat Roberts:
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Tuesday said that under law, USDA is obligated to perform meat and poultry inspections for the safety of consumers despite threats by the Obama Administration to furlough Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees due to forced spending cuts set to take effect March 1, 2013.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with other Senators from rural states, Roberts decried the scare tactics of the Obama Administration in implementing spending cuts that amount to a small percentage of government funding, writing, “We are confident you have the ability to implement sequestration at USDA without jeopardizing the ability of Americans to feed their families and seriously hurting U.S. farmers, meat and poultry production facilities, and workers in those facilities.”
“The Administration should produce legal justifications and furlough plans to provide transparency to the American people for USDA’s implementation of sequestration,” Roberts said. “The costs to farmers and ranchers, already hard hit by drought, will be enormous. USDA must explain whether it can cut costs and other operating expenses to protect the safety and availability of our food supply.”
Industry experts say the USDA furloughs would cause meat, poultry and egg product plants to shut down, impacting approximately 6,290 establishments nationwide and costing more than $10 billion in production losses, while industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.
Roberts joined Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack signed by Senators Thad Cochran, Deb Fisher, Mike Johanns, John Boozman, Saxby Chambliss, John Hoeven and Jerry Moran.
The following is the text of the letter dated Tuesday:
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
You have recently discussed with farm groups and media outlets the impact of sequestration, as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, will have on the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In particular, you have mentioned on numerous occasions the likely furlough of meat and poultry product inspectors. Of course, USDA is required to perform these inspections under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspections Act (PPIA). The health, safety, affordability, and availability of meat and poultry products are of the utmost importance for all Americans. Without inspectors, meat and poultry product production facilities will be shut down, and products will stop flowing to grocery store shelves.
Farmers, meat processors, poultry product processors, and consumers will all be severely hurt if USDA fails to have inspectors on the ground performing their required duties in accordance with FMIA and PPIA. The comments you have made in the press, to farm groups, and at the recent USDA Outlook Forum, suggest you view there is a rigid legal duty to furlough all employees at USDA without concern for USDA’s statutory duties, or for the health and safety of consumers. Since that is apparently your view, please respond to the following questions and requests for further information:
What is USDA doing to reduce spending in the areas of travel, seminars, conferences, and operating expenses in light of sequestration? Please provide an accounting of the savings USDA expects to save from these areas.
Please provide any written legal opinions you have been provided by USDA attorneys, the White House, or the Office of Management and Budget, indicating you have the ability to disregard the requirements under FMIA and PPIA and furlough inspectors.
Please provide your plan for furloughs in the office of the USDA Secretary due to the requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
In a letter you sent in mid-February to the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Chicken Council, and the National Turkey Federation, you stated, “[W]ere sequestration to become reality, it simply would not be possible for FSIS to achieve the requisite level of savings by furloughing non-front line staff alone.” Please explain this assertion. In addition, please explain why USDA cannot use furloughs in other mission areas in order to keep FSIS inspectors on the job. If you have received written legal opinions pertaining to sparing FSIS inspectors and furloughing other USDA employees instead, please provide a copy.
We are confident you have the ability to implement sequestration at USDA without jeopardizing the ability of Americans to feed their families and seriously hurting U.S. farmers, meat and poultry production facilities, and workers in those facilities. We look forward to receiving a response to the above questions and information requests. Due to the time sensitivity of this matter, we would appreciate receiving your response by no later than March 4, 2013.