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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is cosponsoring an amendment that will give federal agencies the flexibility they claim they don’t have to provide vital services, such as meat inspections, control tower operations and border security.  The amendment applies the same standards used during occurrences of inclement weather or other government shutdowns to the sequestration cuts for each agency.

The amendment, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and cosponsored by Senator Risch, is also cosponsored by Senators Mike Enzi, (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mike Johanns (Neb.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

“When governors of either party are faced with a fiscal shortfall in their state, they work to mitigate the budget cuts from impacting the most essential services,” said Risch. “They do not look for ways to make it harder on their citizens. This amendment will take away the excuse by agencies that they do not have the flexibility to deal with the modest slowdown in spending required by sequestration.”

“We should do everything we can to protect Americans’ safety and private sector jobs, and this amendment will allow us to put the American people first,” said Blunt. “Government spending has grown 19 percent in four years and the federal debt has skyrocketed to more than $16.7 trillion. We can find ways to implement 2.4 percent in spending cuts without compromising private sector job creation or national security.”

Background Information:

Since Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) in August 2011, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has failed to adequately plan for the sequestration cuts to each agency. In fact, according to several letters from OMB last year, federal agencies were instructed not to plan for sequestration.

Senator Blunt recently sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to use his authority to minimize the economic impact of sequestration as it relates to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The letter comes on the heels of recent comments by USDA that sequestration would result in an across-the-board furlough of as much as 15 days for all FSIS employees, including inspectors.

In his response, Vilsack claimed: “When Congress drafted the Budget Control Act of 2011 directing Federal agencies to reduce their spending at specified levels, it included no exemption for essential employees such as FSIS inspectors.”

The amendment would address the Obama Administration’s concerns by applying identical language used during occurrences of inclement weather or other government shutdowns to the sequestration cuts to each agency. This is the same language used in guidance from the Clinton Administration in preparation for the 1995 government shutdown.

In April 2011, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a detailed memo to each federal agency outlining those that would be exempted from furlough during a potential government shutdown. Those employees are considered essential “to ensure the safety of life and protection of property,” based on language contained in the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Specifically, the amendment:

  • Defines essential employees using OPM’s April 2011 shutdown guidance:
    • “[A]n employee that performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency.”
  • Provides agencies with funding flexibility so essential services are maintained while non-essential employees are furloughed.
  • Ensures that transfers can only be made within agencies to maintain essential employees and may not increase funding for any other purpose.

To read the amendment, click here.