Defense Department officials indicated today they would be able to limit the number of furlough days originally planned under sequestration because Congress provided more funding for defense after President Obama rejected the authority to implement the cuts in a targeted way.
“We’re looking at a number of options inside the additional money we received as a result of the continuing resolution,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today. “I can’t say at this point that we are going to forego furloughs altogether, and I can’t say at this stage that we’re going to amend our expected policy to furlough civilian employees.” The Armed Forces Press Service explained that “the extra money does give the department some flexibility.”
The Associated Press cites anonymous officials saying that the number of furlough days will drop from 22 to 14. The extra funding came as part of an appropriations bill and continuing resolution introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R. Ky., after President Obama threatened to veto a Senate proposal that would grant him the flexibility to implement the sequester spending cuts in a targeted way, rather than across-the-board cuts.
“Without the additional flexibility provided in this bill, the Pentagon could face severe funding constraints – potentially jeopardizing our national security,” Rogers said of the bill on the House floor, after the Senate had passed an amended version of his original legislation. “In addition to addressing our military’s equipment and readiness needs, it also provides for the quality of life and health of our troops and veterans.”
The legislation locks in discretionary spending back to pre-stimulus levels for the rest of the year. The White House maintains that President Obama didn’t suffer a defeat on this issue, because the Democratic budget could still increase spending.
“The fact is the Senate passed a budget that is balanced in its approach to deficit reduction that allows for the key investments that are necessary so that our economy will grow and our kids are educated,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. “It enacts further spending cuts and entitlement reforms. It mirrors the balanced approach that the Simpson-Bowles Commission put forward, that the President’s budget proposals and submissions to the sequester and his offer to John Boehner represent.”