Lots of Argument but Few Solutions from Capitol Hill on Ending Furloughs


While it appears progress is being made on ending furloughs for air traffic controllers, there’s been no such luck for the more than a million other federal workers facing furloughs this year. The only two “serious” plans to be introduced in Congress thus far, one by each party, were both declared dead on arrival by their political opponents.

The Senate Republican plan, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), seeks to give the Obama Administration flexibility in applying the cuts to other areas of discretionary spending rather than taking the board-brushed approach mandated by the sequester law. Critics of this plan suggest the cost shifts will still deprive agencies of needed resources and do little to stop furloughs at some agencies. Others suggest it is merely an attempt to shift the blame for sequestration cuts squarely onto Obama’s desk.

The Democrats’ plan, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), seeks to prevent furloughs through September of this year by using savings from the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. This plan is not without its critics as well. Many suggest the savings are not actually savings, since the cost reductions were already planned to take place irrespective of the Senator’s plans. It also fails to address the long term effects of sequestration since it only deals with FY 13 cuts.

In short, our elected officials have arrived at a stalemate, and don’t seem terribly concerned with getting us out of it. The only way to stop the finger-pointing and obstructionism by both parties is to make some noise. This week we saw the Senate pass a bill to end furloughs for air traffic controllers because these workers and the flying public spoke up. When enough of us speak up, Congress listens.

“Members of Congress need to hear loud and clear from federal employees in their Districts,” said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin. “Washington politics is a big game, and for the politicians it’s all about winning. If that means sacrificing a few pawns along the way, that’s fine by them. We need our folks to call or show up at their District offices and make it clear: We’re real people, and we aren’t going to be pawns in your little game. This sequestration nonsense needs to end.”

Stopping furloughs can be done – for some it already has. All we must do is pick up our phones and make the call. Call your member of Congress (on your own time, using your own phone) at the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121, and tell them to put a stop to these senseless furloughs.