Rep. Blackburn: Obama Using Sequester to ‘Inflict Pain’ on Americans -- ‘It’s Ridiculous’

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 15, 2013 | 5:18 PM EDT

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) (AP Photo)

– Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said the Obama administration has been using the $44 billion across-the-board budget sequester to try to “inflict as much pain as possible,” but the American people aren’t buying it because they “knew that it wasn’t going to be the end of government as we know it.”

Speaking to at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Blackburn said the White House was “inappropriate” in the way it has been handling the across-the-board spending reductions.

“What we see so many of these agencies doing is trying to inflict pain and make it really hurt,” she said. “It’s like a parent saying, ‘I’m going to make this hurt as much as I can make it hurt.’ And I think it is so inappropriate.”

Blackburn said the White House has been stage-managing the response.

“Most of the agencies if you left them alone and said, ‘Figure out how to make this work,’ they could make it work,” Blackburn said. “But you’ve got the secretaries -- the cabinet secretaries, the undersecretaries -- we’ve seen an e-mail from USDA where they’re saying, ‘You’ve got to make this hurt as much as you possibly can, don’t you dare contradict us.’

“I mean this is ridiculous.”

But the president’s campaign seems to have been ineffective, according to the Tennessee congresswoman.

“We are a government of, by and for the people and I think this is one of the reasons that the president’s poll numbers have fallen so much,” Blackburn said. “Unfortunately, he’s gotten out there and tried to cry ‘mayday, mayday’ over The Sequester.”

“You know the American people live in counties and towns and cities and states that all do across-the-board cuts to balance their budget,” Blackburn said. “Their employers use across-the-board cuts. They knew that it wasn’t going to be the end of government as we know it.”

The administration has already released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants, citing The Sequester – the across-the-board federal budget cuts which amount to $44 billion in reduced spending in 2013, and which took effect on March 1.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton admitted that a total of 2,228 illegal immigrants have been released from local jails between Feb. 9 and March 1 for “solely budgetary reasons,” during a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

The White House also cancelled its public tours, blaming the budget cuts.

“The unfortunate thing is whether it’s White House tours or releasing the 2,200 illegals from jail, those that have broke -- they’ve come into the country illegally,” Blackburn said. “There is a reason for them being there.”

“The bad thing is, we don’t know if they are criminal illegal entrants or what,” she said. “They’ve just been let go.”

New Uniforms for TSA 'Egregious'

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also said The Sequester will force the agency to furlough its employees.

However, as previously reported, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sealed a $50 million contract for new uniforms just days before the cuts went into effect.

Blackburn not only questioned the expense, she said the agency should not have federal law enforcement uniforms in the first place, because the agents have no law enforcement training.

“They are put into statute as screeners and processors,” she said, of the TSA agents. “Through administrative rules, the Department of Homeland Security changed the screeners to officers and then they started this process of putting them in uniforms. And then guess what? They unionized them.”

“And now even though they have absolutely zero law enforcement training they are the largest federal law enforcement union group,” Blackburn said. “It’s amazing to me.”

Blackburn also pointed out that the TSA now has an annual uniform allowance greater than the $400 lifetime allowance for a Marine’s entire career.

“You have TSA agents that are getting $446 a year and they should not even be in a law enforcement uniform,” she said. “I think it is so egregious.”

Blackburn said TSA agents do not have sufficient training to be law enforcement officers, and has introduced the “Stop TSA’s Reach In Policy (STRIP) Act,” which would prohibit agents who have not undergone law enforcement training from wearing law enforcement uniforms.

“It is not what Congress intended,” she said. “It’s time to stop it.  That’s why my legislation is called the STRIP Act.”

“Let’s get these titles and these uniforms away from TSA and have them go back to their statutorial stated duty, which is to assist the traveling public.”