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No Smart Way? What Happened to “Line-By-Line”?

Posted: April 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm   /   by

No Smart Way?
What Happened to “Line-By-Line”?

Remember when President Obama prided himself on the desire to get out the red pen and go “line-by-line, page-by-page” through the federal budget to eliminate waste and inefficiency?  That was a long time ago.  Now, the White House is changing its tune.  When it comes to the sequester, “line-by-line” is “piecemeal.”  And that’s no way to do business in Washington … at least if you want to hold onto your political leverage for higher taxes.



 November 2008: “Obama Vows Line-By-Line Budget Review”:  President Obama: “This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges…. We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.” (Foon Rhee, “Obama vows line-by-line budget review,” The Boston Globe, 11/25/08)



“Line-By-Line” Turns Into “Piecemeal”:

POLITICO: “W.H. Warns Against Piecemeal Sequester Fixes”(Donavan Slack, “W.H. Warns Against Piecemeal Sequester Fixes,” POLITICO, 4/26/13)

White House Spokesman Says “Piecemeal Is Not The Way To Fix The Sequester”: BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS: “By accepting the FAA, haven’t you now opened the door to a bunch of folks coming along asking for a piece-by-piece fix on the flexibility in a particular agency or budget line, but taken the pressure off for the very grand bargain, balanced compromise that you say you want?” JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  “No, because as I pointed out, piecemeal is not the way to fix the sequester.  It would tax not just this Congress, but any Congress in history to go about the business of trying to fix this in a piecemeal fashion.  It’s not the way to do it.” (White House Press Briefing, 4/29/13)

Carney: “The Sequester Itself Cannot Be Finessed.” “President Obama plans to sign legislation eliminating FAA furloughs causing flight delays, but the administration is firmly against piecemeal fixes to other impacts of sequester cuts, press secretary Jay Carney said Friday. ‘This is a one-off case, if you will,’ he said, adding ‘the sequester itself cannot be finessed. It is having negative consequences around the country.’” (Donavan Slack, “W.H. Warns Against Piecemeal Sequester Fixes,” POLITICO, 4/26/13)


The White House Previously Threatened To Veto Any Bill Giving Them Discretion:

White House Threatened To Veto A Bill Intended To Give Them Discretion: “The White House threatened to veto the Senate GOP’s bill aimed at giving the president flexibility to target spending cuts — ripping the idea for protecting corporate tax exemptions.” (Steven Dennis, “White House Threatens To Veto GOP Sequester Bill,” Roll Call, 2/28/13)

Carney: Bill With “Enough Flexibility To Do Away With All The Bad Things Doesn’t Exist.” “A bill that ‘introduced enough flexibility to do away with all the bad things doesn’t exist,’ [White House Press Secretary Jay Carney] said.” (Anith Kumar and William Douglas, “Republicans Propose Flexible Cuts as Sequestration Option,” The Sacramento Bee, 3/20/13)

Carney: No Amount Of Discretion Would Help. “Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, dismissed the Republican plan, saying that no amount of flexibility could mitigate the damage of the automatic cuts. He said such changes could help only ‘on the margins.’”(Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, “G.O.P Drafts Plan to Give Obama Discretion on Cuts,” The New York Times, 2/26/13)



CBS This Morning: Spending Cuts Can Be Done “Wisely And Better.” CHARLIE ROSE: “So, does that mean Republicans have a point when they say spending cuts can be done wisely and better?” JOHN DICKERSON: “Well, yes they do.  And this is what irritates a lot of Democrats and the White House, because Republicans say ‘Yes, we can just be smart about these cuts and we can shrink the budget.’ What the White House was hoping is that the pain from sequestration – these across the board cuts – would hit and people would say, ‘ we need a big fix to this cockeyed budget we’ve got.’ ” (CBS This Morning, 4/26/13)



Many Democrats Fear The President Is Giving Away His Leverage. “The Obama administration’s strategy for replacing the sequester has always been to rely on public pressure when the automatic spending cuts start to sting. But with the White House’s recent willingness to create special workarounds for programs such as the Federal Aviation Administration and meat inspectors, many Democrats fear the president is giving away all his leverage on the issue.” (Meredith Shiner, “Has Obama Given Away His Sequester Leverage?” Roll Call, 4/29/13)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Hopes The Pain Of The Sequester Will Give Democrats Leverage: “Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is calling on his party to stop voting for bills that fix painful sequestration cuts. He warns that if Democrats keep fixing parts of the sequester, they’ll run out of leverage to force Republicans to the bargaining table to hash out a permanent fix.” (Evan McMorris-Santoro, “White House Leaves Door Open To More Piecemeal Sequester Fixes,” Buzzfeed, 4/29/13) is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.

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No Smart Way? What Happened to "Line-By-Line"?