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Grassley: Q&A on Federal Furloughs

Senator Charles Grassley
Senator Charles Grassley

From Sen. Charles Grassley –

Q: With the massive size of the federal workforce, how can it be that federal furloughs, attributed to budget sequestration, have been made in a way that threatens day-to-day services related to public safety and the private-sector economy?

A: Despite the fact that the Budget Control Act, which established sequestration, was enacted by President Obama in August 2011, the Office of Management and Budget in the White House failed to adequately plan for sequestration cuts to each agency. What’s worse, there may have been an orchestrated effort to highlight spending reductions with high profile furloughs that would frustrate the public, even though they could have been avoided. In fact, the Office of Personnel Management had earlier instructed each federal agency about which federal employees 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. Add common sense and the fact that the federal budget has grown 19 percent in four years. The result is no good reason the government should cease to perform essential services because 2.5 percent of the federal budget is cut through sequestration.

Q: What can be done to stop unnecessary furloughs?

A: I’ve cosponsored a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Essential Services Act, S.724. This legislation would simply apply identical language used during government shutdown scenarios to the budget sequester. It would provide the administration with flexibility that it currently claims it does not have in order to ensure essential federal employees continue to provide vital services such as meat inspections, control tower operations, and border security. Essential services would be maintained while non-essential employees are furloughed. And transfers would be allowed only within agencies to maintain essential employees, so that funding could not be increased for another purpose.

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