RACINE, WI — At a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confronted by one of the more than 1 million federal workers affected by across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
David Novak, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency in Wisconsin, confronted Ryan over the impact the sequester is having: For Novak and hundreds of thousands of federal employees, it’s meant shorter hours and less pay. “I’ve already lost $6,000 in pay. I’ve got another 47 hours to lose,” he said. “You’re taking away our pay.”
Ryan’s response to Novak reinvented his long standing position on budget cuts. Not only did Ryan disavow any responsibility for helping create the sequester, he also omitted how his budget plan similarly shrinks the EPA:
This was is something the president has done through the Budget Control Act. We didn’t like it so we passed two bills to replace it. Twice. I passed a bill twice. I passed a bill in December that said instead of doing the sequester, here’s how the government should cut to pay for it. They rejected it. Then this last March we passed a bill funding the government and giving the executive branch the authority and flexibility on top to implement the sequester.
The EPA chose to implement it this way to affect you as you described. The Department of Transportation, they chose — chose, I’m using this word intentionally — they chose to furlough air traffic controllers when they could have cut other [inaudible]. They slated the Kenosha/Janesville airport for closure when they had the authority by Congress, signed into law.
Although he now blames President Obama, Ryan was a key Republican involved in creating the sequester in the first place. Congress passed the Budget Control Act in response to Republican demands for spending cuts without new revenue in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, which Ryan fully supported. The sequester’s broad cuts to social programs and defense spending were meant to motivate the Super Committee to reach a deficit reduction deal, but none was reached. All along, Republicans have refused additional revenue to reduce the deficit and Ryan even bragged about the law, calling the law “a victory for those committed to controlling government spending.”
But Ryan included another omission. In his 2014 budget, the House Budget chair calls for deep budget cuts to the EPA as well, which would severely handicap its oversight of the environment and public health. Ryan’s budget also incorporates the sequester in practically all non-defense spending.
When ThinkProgress spoke to Novak afterward, the military veteran said he “agreed with what he came back with, that there were bills proposed that would take care of this, but it’s still unfair.” “The job’s not getting done,” he said. “I work with the public. I can’t go out and work with the public.”