Delegate lays blame for sequester

furloughed worker

Eleanor Holmes Norton expressed support for federal employees who may soon have some required unpaid time off. (Stock image)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is not pulling any punches in her criticism of those responsible for the sequester, saying the across-the-board budget cuts are more an ideological point for certain lawmakers than economic best practices.

"It should be understood that who really controls Congress is not the overall Congress – not the Republicans or the Democrats, but the very large number of Tea Party Republicans," she said. "This large number of people who defy the best of economic analysis and insists only upon cuts, essentially all leading the pack and making it more difficult for others to step outside the pack."

The District of Columbia's non-voting congressional representative kicked off the Federal Managers Association’s annual convention March 4 in Washington, D.C., with a morning keynote that emphasized the federal workforce's recent struggle with pay freezes and sweeping budget cuts currently being enforced.

"There are no precedents to guide you as you have to manage your way during a period when you have to ditch long-term planning and even tear up yesterday’s short-term plans or reassure and motivate employees with no assurance yourself of what the next day will bring," Norton said. "You can’t promise them much."

Federal managers also have to consider furloughs for employees who can "ill afford a day without pay" to reach the savings required by the sequester, Norton said. "You even had to contemplate furloughing yourselves!" she added with incredulity. "I’m not sure that any manager in the history of our country ever had to contemplate laying themselves off."

In light of the escalating anti-federal sentiments and the cuts aimed at the workforce to achieve savings, Norton said she hoped federal employees are used to being rhetorical punching bags.

"If you have an antigovernment point of view, then you see federal employees as representatives of the government – but it’s Congress that’s representative of the government," she pointed out.

The constant targeting of the federal workforce "borders on an addiction, and it’s time to go cold turkey," Norton said. Instead of persistently tapping federal employees for more savings, subsidies to corporations should be stopped, she said, because "why in the world should we give any tax breaks for such profitable companies?"

Norton, who serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, last week announced she would offset the impact of the sequester on her staff by donating some of her pay in solidarity – a decision she called "a small action."

"Your pay," she said to the audience, "and the pay of my own employees is subject to the political whims of members of Congress who enjoy constitutional protection against the cuts they’re needlessly visiting on federal employees, managers, the public, and the economy. Donating a day’s pay for whatever number of furlough days is no sacrifice to me."

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


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