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The Clamor for Special Sequester Deals

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
McCain said that while he supported the narrowly tailored FAA funding flexibility measure, he couldn’t understand the lack of emphasis on the Pentagon budget.

First, meat inspectors got a reprieve from the sequester. Then air-traffic controllers at the Federal Aviation Administration . Now cancer and teachers’ groups are hoping to jump on the slippery slope Congress appears to have created by carving out special status for some programs hurt by automatic spending cuts.

Of course, many groups looking for the same kind of funding flexibility Congress gave to the FAA this week lack the made-for-TV visuals of airplanes stranded on tarmacs.

Still, the American Cancer Society’s affiliated advocacy group is pushing to roll back the sequester’s more than 5 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Chris Hansen says research is disproportionately affected by such cuts because the investments in research take place over such a long term.

“They’re actually going to lose a lot of other research that they’ve already funded over the years,” Hansen said in an interview. If investments in existing projects are cut back, the NIH may not be able to track effects on participants in past trials, he explained.

“You’re going to have people that are going to die,” Hansen said of people being tossed from clinical trials.

While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney signaled President Barack Obama would sign the bill the House passed Friday to allow reprogramming of FAA funds to stop air-traffic controller furloughs, Carney cautioned against other “Band-Aid” measures.

“Given how the Congress deliberates and the disagreements that exist on a variety of narrow, specific issues, you can imagine how little would be accomplished if that were the path that were chosen,” Carney said. “The right path is simply to come to the agreement on principle that everybody used to agree on, which is that the sequester should never be implemented.”

Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, an organization that counts among its membership major teachers’ unions and public and private university systems, said that eventually the public would see sequester cuts other places, like in classrooms with more students.

“It seems that Congress and the president are hoping that if they fix the FAA problem, sequestration — which will continue to cut funding for critical programs for the next decade under current law — will be out of sight, out of mind, for the American people,” Packer said. “They’re wrong.”

Packer’s group is one of about 3,200 of various sizes that’s been battling against sequestration cuts as part of the NDD United coalition.

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