House GOP takes aim at administration's sequester warnings

2013-03-20T00:00:00Z House GOP takes aim at administration's sequester warningsWilliam Douglas Mcclatchy Newspapers Arizona Daily Star
March 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON - Republicans in the House of Representatives sought Tuesday to aggressively debunk dire claims by the Obama administration about some of the impacts of the across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration.

At two oversight committee hearings, Republican lawmaker after lawmaker teed off on representatives from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Agriculture, as well as from the Federal Communications Commission. They charged that the administration was politicizing the sequester by overhyping its impact or targeting budget cuts to maximize the pain they'd inflict on the public.

Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee repeatedly pointed out that several claims by President Obama and Cabinet officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have been criticized by fact-checkers and editorial writers as exaggerating the impact of the $85 billion in mandatory cuts that began to take effect March 1.

"There's the reality of sequestration, with the rhetoric of the Obama administration," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. "The Obama administration has misled the American people with horror story after horror story about the sequester."

White House officials defended their characterizations of the impact.

"We tried to warn about the real-world effects that imposition of the sequester would have on middle-class Americans across the country, on our defense industries and on our military posture, national security readiness," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "And those effects are being felt."

At the morning hearing, Republicans were particularly incensed by a claim Napolitano made earlier this month that lines at some Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are already "150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect."

However, several news media outlets, including The Atlantic and London's Telegraph newspaper, have reported recently that overly long security checkpoint lines haven't materialized yet at America's major airports

Questioned about Napolitano's assertion, Rafael Borras, the undersecretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security, told the committee, "I am not aware that we've had a doubling of wait times at airports across the country.

"I am aware of, in some instances, where at some airports, due to the elimination or reduction of overtime that it's required - it's resulted in some additional wait time," Borras added.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., testily suggested that if security lines at airports are getting too long, the Homeland Security Department and the Transportation Security Administration should kick administrators out of their offices - including Napolitano - and put them to work at airports.

House Democrats accused their Republican colleagues of shedding crocodile tears over the sequester. Republican lawmakers knew what the across-the-board cuts would do, Democrats said, and they wholeheartedly voted for them.

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