Backpedaling on furloughs?

Thanks to the sequestration edict, backpedaling is the new exercise order of the day. It has replaced hot yoga, pilates, P90X and Insanity as the exercise du jour.

The very different ways federal agencies are coping with sequestration is viewed by some as chaotic or bureaucratic-paper shuffling. Maybe.

But a more charitable (and maybe more accurate) assessment is that the different-strokes approach each agency is taking means that a lot of the people in charge realize they’ve been handed a political skunk, and they are trying to minimize the fallout on their staff and the public.

The White House is doing its bit by canceling public tours. Tens of thousands of school kids (and their taxpayer-voter parents) were in town over spring break only to find out that the tickets they got from their member of Congress were no good. Congress did its part by taking a two-week spring break. But, in contrast, the bureaucrats that sequestration is supposed to punish and pummel are doing pretty well.

As predicted by a lot of long-time Washington-watchers, a lot of the tough talk about the catastrophic impact sequestration would have on everything near and dear to you has been softened. Back-pedaling seems to be the order of the day:

  • Defense was first out of the gate saying it would furlough nearly all of its 780,000 civilians for 22 days. No excuses, sir! Period. Then last week DoD, under new management, decided that 14 is a more reasonable number. Some insiders believe that when/if furloughs hit, a number of workers will be exempted.
  • Agriculture said it would comply with sequestration rules for across-the-board cuts. But it cleverly mentioned that would impact meat and poultry inspections. That brought the predicted knee-jerk reaction from farmers and manufacturers who process the animals, restaurants and fast-food chains that serve them and from voters who eat the stuff in hopes they won’t get sick or die.
  • Customs and Border Patrol has issued 30-day warning notices to its 60,000 workers. It is planning on up to 14 furlough days but talks with its union are underway and outside political pressure could reduce the number of furlough days.
  • In March 2012, the Justice Department warned that sequestration could force it to furlough 100,000 workers (about 86 percent of its total) for as much as five weeks. Since then, the number of furlough days has dropped to 14. And that could change again.
  • A State Department memo obtained by The Washington Post indicated that furloughs wouldn’t begin until the third quarter of this fiscal year. That means they wouldn’t happen until at least June. And by then, some people think the politicians — on both sides — will at least be working to undo much of the sequestration package.

This is not to make light of the furlough threat. It is very real. And it could cost a lot of feds a lot of money. Losing one day’s pay is a 20 percent hit for that week. So how will you make ends meet when and if furloughs begin?

Tomorrow at 10 a.m. (EDT) on our Your Turn radio show, we’ll talk with Steve Bauer, executive director of the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund. FEEA is a feds-helping-feds charity that makes emergency loans to feds in need. He’ll talk about how you can get assistance if furloughs begin.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


Compiled by Jack Moore

Chicken McNuggets first became available at McDonalds restaurants nationwide in 1983. The crispy-coated tidbits were actually invented in 1979 but weren’t available everywhere “because there simply wasn’t enough processed chicken to go around,” according to Mental Floss.


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