In remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) countered assertions from the White House and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that current flight delays and furloughs are the unavoidable result of the sequester's spending cuts.
Sen. Toomey reminded the chamber that he and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) had previously introduced a bill to give the administration broad flexibility to reconfigure the spending cuts to avoid this kind of economic disruption, but President Obama threatened to veto it.
"The flight delays, the furloughs among air traffic controllers, the shutting down of air traffic towers is entirely, utterly unnecessary," Sen. Toomey said. "This is a willful choice being made by this administration in order to inflict as disruptive a process as possible on the American public and on our economy all to further a political agenda. And the political agenda is to try to convince the American people that there are no circumstances under which we can ever cut spending at all."
A full transcript of Sen. Toomey's remarks:
"I would like to respond to the comments from the Leader about the sequester that has gone into effect. I want to be very clear about this: the flight delays that are occurring, the furloughs among air-traffic controllers, the shutting down of air-traffic towers is entirely, utterly unnecessary.
"This is a willful choice being made by this Administration in order to inflict as disruptive a process as possible on the American public and on our economy – all to further a political agenda and to try to convince the American people that there are no circumstances under which we can ever cut spending at all.
"Now, if you question why I say that this is a willful decision on the part of this Administration, I would refer you to legislation that Sen. Inhofe and I offered prior to the beginning of this sequestration. That legislation would have granted to the Administration complete flexibility in how they achieve the savings of the sequester.
"What did we hear from the Administration, Administration officials and White House spokespeople? What we heard was 'that this is terribly unfortunate but they have no choice, they have no alternative, the law requires that they make these cuts.' But when Sen. Inhofe and I introduce legislation to explicitly grant them all the flexibility they could ask for – complete flexibility – to find the most wasteful, the most redundant, the most unnecessary programs and to cut there instead of cutting essential services, what did the Administration say? They said 'if you send us that legislation we’ll veto it.'
"The White House put out a statement of administrative policy insisting that this was a terrible idea – a terrible idea to give them the flexibility to avoid exactly what they are doing.
"I don’t know how one can come to any conclusion other than this Administration wishes to impose this inconvenience, this disruption, and this cost on the American people and our economy, because they had it within their ability to accept the device we offered to avoid this entirely. I am extremely disappointed that the Administration would choose to inflict this kind of harm to our economy, this kind of inconvenience to our travelers, all for the purpose of furthering a political agenda. This is no way to run this government.
"I would suggest that what we do is revisit the legislation that Sen. Inhofe and I offered. Our bill would have allowed us to cut some of this waste, excess and duplication and would have avoided all of this inconvenience.
"This is entirely unnecessary and it is unacceptable. The proper function of any executive, including the President of the United States, is to look throughout the spending over which he or she has control to find the lowest priority, the least necessary, the least disruptive way to achieve the savings that we need.
"We are running unacceptable deficits. The very modest savings of the sequester could be achieved in a way that wouldn’t be disruptive at all. We have a federal budget that has more than doubled in size in the last 12 years. To suggest that it’s not possible to find two and a half percent savings is simply ridiculous. And it’s not true.
"So I would urge my colleagues: Let’s fix this. We know how to do it, we have the tools available. Sen. Inhofe and I offered an approach. But we need to achieve the savings of the sequester and we need to do it in a way that is not disruptive, and that can be done."