Three months into the sequester, the White House still doesn’t want more flexibility in how it implements the across-the-board cuts, with the administration still banking on a broader summer budget deal instead.
“I know there are a lot of people who sort of floated this idea about whether or not flexibility is a good thing, or a bad thing,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest at Friday’s White House briefing. “We actually think that the sequester is a really bad thing” and should be replaced, he said.
Flexibility on its own “doesn’t address ... the impact that the sequester has on our broader economy. That’s what the president is most concerned about, and that’s why the president’s put forward a very specific plan to fix it,” Earnest said.
There are several proposals kicking around Capitol Hill that would give the White House new flexibility to implement the cuts. If the White House wanted to cancel cuts to Head Start and Meals on Wheels, for example, it could transfer funding from lower priority accounts. That could cause political problems for the White House because they would own the particular political pain they choose to implement, and it would diminish pressure for a larger deal, which was supposed to be the point of the sequester in the first place.
It hasn’t worked out that way, and Republican leaders show no signs of budging. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., penned a column for Reuters this week calling the Democratic push to replace the sequester, in part with higher taxes, a “fantasy.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.