White House, Congress face cuts; details lacking
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Congress won't be immune to the automatic cuts in federal spending scheduled to kick in Friday. But for all the grim warnings the Obama administration has been detailing about the effect on everything from meat packing plants to airports, the consequences of the cuts on the politicians who concocted the idea are much sketchier.
To be sure, the legislative branch and the executive office of the president will take a hit if, as expected, $85 billion in across-the-board reductions begin to take effect in three days. As with other agencies, the impact won't necessarily be immediate.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week that White House personnel, like other non-exempt agencies of government, will experience reductions in pay and "there will be furloughs." But he said he had no breakdown of those numbers. Other government agencies have said they will spread out their furloughs so that workers will have to take one or two days off without pay per pay period.
President Barack Obama himself won't be among those affected. Included in the law's long list of exemptions to the cuts, in there along with Social Security benefits and food stamps, is the compensation of the president. Also exempt are the pensions of former presidents and payments to the widows and heirs of deceased members of Congress.
Still, there will be pain at both ends of Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue. According to a document prepared last September and modified in December by the White House Office of Management and Budget, most of the White House accounts, including the $113 million in salaries and expenses in the office of administration, would take an 8.2 percent trim. Likewise, the $396 million budgeted for senators' personnel and office expense accounts and the $1.226 billion budgeted for House salaries and expenses would take the same cut.
Those figures and percentages, however, were calculated before Congress took steps to delay the effective date of the reductions from Jan. 1 to March 1. As a result, the cuts might be slightly smaller.
Each congressional office operates independently and will determine how to find the reductions. The offices are not required to make public their plans to implement the reductions.
Other administration departments, acting to pressure Congress to change the cuts, have been eager to spell out the details.
Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeared in the White House briefing room to say that more than $600 million of Transportation Department cuts would come from the Federal Aviation Administration and that the agency's nearly 47,000 employees would have to be furloughed for about a day per pay period until the end of September. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the White House press corps that the cuts would be equal to 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents.
White House officials said the budget office is still working on how the cuts might specifically affect White House operations and personnel.