U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Wednesday that he believes the Obama administration has enacted so-called "sequestration" budget cuts for maximum political impact.
"The worst aspects of sequestration right now is how the administration is actually implementing it. It seems to me that all they're trying to do is inflict as much pain as possible on individual families," said the freshman congressman, whose 13th District includes Champaign-Urbana. "Look at what they're doing by closing the White House for tours. We have hard-working taxpayers in central Illinois who save and plan to go on vacation to Washington. And they're going to close the White House down because of sequestration when there are so many opportunities to move money around and find the real waste and fraud in Washington, and do something that's not going to adversely impact the hard-working taxpayers of this area."
Air traffic control towers at two airports in his district, in Decatur and Bloomington, are to be closed next month, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"To keep all these air towers open (149 nationwide) is estimated to cost $35 million during this year's sequestration. Over $500 million a year is spent by the FAA on consultants," Davis said. "You can't tell me that there aren't other areas that they can't cut that won't have the impact on everyday, average Americans that closing air towers will have on them."
He called the across-the-board sequestration cuts "just plain laziness" and "terrible policy."
A continuing resolution Obama signed Tuesday gives agencies some flexibility in making the required cuts, Davis admitted.
"But we shouldn't have had to take that step," he said. "I believe a lot of these agencies have the ability to make some changes. Others are a little more hamstring."
He cited a discussion he had March 5 with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack over the agencies' budget cuts (available on C-SPAN at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/clip/4373072), while at the same time funding research on boll worms in Phoenix, Ariz.
"It was at the same hearing where he told me they were going to furlough meat inspectors and furlough USDA employees. He said he didn't have the flexibility to make that decision. He's the secretary of agriculture. Come on, he's got the authority to hire three boll worm researchers in Phoenix, Ariz., or not fill them," Davis said. "That just shows me that their plan was to make these cuts as painful as possible in order to get people to call members of Congress."
Still, Davis defended the idea of the federal budget cuts.
"I think that what you'll see is that asking the federal government to cut 2 percent is no different than what the federal government asked every hard-working American family to do when they took away the payroll tax cut. Every single family in America had a 2 percent tax increase at the beginning of the year," he said. "No cut in spending, whether you're the federal or state or local government, or a family, no cut is easy. But there are ways to make it easier. When you have a $16.6 trillion debt you've got to put yourself on a plan to do so."
Asked whether he believed a budget compromise was possible later this year, including possibly higher taxes on the wealthy, Davis was noncommittal.
"The only way we can come to a solution on the fiscal problems facing the country is to have both parties sit down and talk about common-sense solutions," he said. "I obviously have a vision for America that is different than those in the Democratic Party. But we've got to be able to come together and find out what will work best for all Americans."
He said "there are a lot of rank-and-file members of Congress who want to work together.
"The next month will tell whether folks like me and many others, on both sides of the aisle, are going to have that opportunity to do so, or whether the conventional wisdom that all Washington does is based upon partisanship, whether or not that side is going to win. A lot has to do with whether the president wants to work with us in Congress, or whether he's just going to double down and try to win back the House so he can have control of all levels of government after 2014. A lot of it has to do with him."