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Entries in Sequester (52)

Friday
May242013

Budget Cuts Get Personal; Those Who Are Hurt, Holler

Image Source/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The federal budget sequester may be dampening a rise in economic optimism: Nearly four in 10 Americans now say sequestration has hurt them personally, up substantially since it began in March -- and they’re far less sanguine than others about the economy’s prospects overall.

Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.”

Those who are hurt, holler. Among people who report no personal impact of the sequester, 66 percent say economic recovery is under way, and six in 10 are optimistic about the economy’s prospects in the year ahead. Among those who report major harm from the cuts, by contrast, just 36 percent see recovery, and optimism drops to 40 percent.

As reported earlier this week, optimism about the economy is advancing; 56 percent of Americans now say it’s begun to recover, up by 20 percentage points in the past year and a half to the most since ABC and the Post first asked the question in late 2009. Results on the sequester suggest that could be better still had the cuts not taken effect.

More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of sequestration, now by 56-35 percent -- again, a view influenced by experience of the cuts. Eight in 10 of those who report serious harm oppose the cuts, as do about two-thirds of those slightly harmed. But the majority, which has felt no impacts, divides exactly evenly -- 46 percent favor the cuts, vs. 46 percent opposed.

Further, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 39 percent overall “strongly” disapprove of the cuts -- but that soars to 66 percent of those who say they’ve been harmed in a major way. (Just 16 percent overall strongly approve.)

Experience of the cuts even trumps partisanship and ideology: Among Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party supporters who’ve been harmed by the cuts, most oppose them. Support is far higher among those in these groups who haven’t felt an impact of sequestration.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the partisan nature of the debate, views of the cuts don’t divide sharply along party lines. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike oppose the cuts -- 59 and 54 percent, respectively -- as do a similar 58 percent of independents.

One reason: Republicans are 14 points more apt than Democrats to say they’ve been harmed by the sequester. And among Republicans who’ve been hurt by the cuts, 68 percent disapprove of them. Among those unhurt, disapproval drops to 42 percent.

Forty-seven percent of “very” conservative Americans approve of the cuts, as do 42 percent of those who call themselves “somewhat” conservative. It’s 36 percent among moderates and 24 percent among liberals. But again, impacts of the cuts are a bigger factor in views on the issue. Among conservatives hurt by the cuts, 65 percent disapprove of them; among those unhurt, just 34 percent disapprove.

Similarly, 66 percent of Tea Party supporters who’ve been damaged by the cuts disapprove, vs. 44 percent of those who report no personal impact.

While Barack Obama has been a sharp critic of sequestration, he only runs 43-38 percent against the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the budget deficit, not a significant difference. He’s done much better on the issue, but also worse; the tables were turned as recently as two years ago, when Obama trailed the GOP in trust to handle the deficit by 8 points.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May102013

Army Leaders: Sequestration Could Hurt Fight Against Sexual Assault

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff have told senators that sequestration could hurt efforts to deal with sexual assaults within their branch of the military.

In a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 23, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the across-the-board budget cuts mandated as part of the sequester could hurt their Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program “from slowing hiring actions, to delaying lab results which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims.”

A Defense Department study released Tuesday showed there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault made in 2012, and DOD estimated a total of 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred.
The Army has had the highest rate of victims reporting sexual assault compared to active duty military service among the five branches, at least since 2007.

In their oral testimony in April, the Army leaders stressed the importance of working with soldiers from their first days in the service through the rest of their military careers to ensure they see sexual harassment and assault as serious problems.

“It is just about constantly talking about this problem and constantly ensuring that people understand we are going to take this seriously. And it’s as frustrating to all of us, I know, as it is to you, senator,” Gen. Odierno told Senator Kay Hagan. “I wish I had a better answer for you frankly.”

The statement from April said the Army planned to add 829 full-time military and civilian sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to combat the problem within the branch.

Wednesday the Army Secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army faces $7.6 billion in sequestration cuts between April and September. Gen. Odierno said that in part has left them with a $13-billion budget shortfall and requested Congress delay the cuts for the Army for “later years.”

“We are sacrificing readiness to achieve reductions inside the short period of the fiscal year. And unfortunately, readiness can’t ever be bought back, because there’s a time component of readiness,” he said. “It’s just not the size of the cuts but it’s the steepness of the cuts required by sequestration, especially close in, which make it impossible to downsize the force in a deliberate, logical manner that allow us to sustain the appropriate balance between readiness, modernization and end strength.”

Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt told ABC News Thursday that despite sequestration, “the Army will continue provide care, support and treatment for” victims of sexual assault.

Lawmakers met with members of the Obama administration at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss how to combat sexual assault in the military going forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May012013

USO Fundraises to Salvage Fleet Week

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard M. Wolff(NEW YORK) -- It’s not the Air Force holding a bake sale to buy a bomber, but the United Services Organization is holding a fundraiser to keep Fleet Week afloat after it was torpedoed by sequester cuts.

The USO sent out its fundraising pitch email this week.

In light of across-the-board spending cuts mandated in the sequester, the Defense Department has said the Armed Forces cannot spend money on outreach opportunities like Fleet Week, the time each May when members of the Marines, Navy and the Coast Guard come ashore in coastal cities to celebrate with civilians and give shows to the public. The event was originally scheduled for the week of Memorial Day.

“Will we allow this opportunity to demonstrate America’s support of our men and women in uniform pass us by?” retired Col. Jack Jacobs asked readers in the email for the USO. “Not on our watch!”

The email pledges that the organization will “keep the spirit of Fleet Week alive” and “make our military appreciation and Memorial Day events better than ever before.”

“Although the sequester has created a large gap to close, with YOUR help – we can do it!” Jacobs wrote.

USO of Metropolitan New York hopes to raise $75,000 in donations to host events between Armed Forces Day and the week of Memorial Day.

Supporting the troops and military families is a year-round endeavor that involves hundreds of events annually, according to Gayle Fishel, director of media relations for the USO.

“While we do not know what events are tied to sequestration, it is clear that today’s environment makes the services and programs that the USO provides even more important,” Fishel told ABC News in an email Wednesday. “Fleet Week in New York City is one of the many ways, and an important way, we support the troops and families and continue to be always by their side.”

The Navy and Air Force both cancelled all shows for their flight demonstration teams, the Blue Angels and the Thunder Birds, for the rest of the fiscal year, citing sequestration as the cause for the cuts.

Fort Bragg, a major American Army base in North Carolina, was forced to cancel its Independence Day celebration because of the cuts as well.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr272013

FAA Suspends Air Traffic Control Furloughs

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration announced Saturday that it is suspending employee furloughs and will restore normal staffing levels at air traffic facilities by Sunday evening, easing more than a week of major delays because of cutbacks in air traffic control.

“The FAA has suspended all employee furloughs. Air traffic facilities will begin to return to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours and the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening,” the FAA said in a statement.

On Friday, Congress passed legislation which provides the FAA with transfer authority for $253 million until October to restore the staffing levels at the nation’s airports which have encountered major airline delays over the past week as the furloughs have hit air traffic controllers.

A White House official told ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny that President Obama was set to sign the legislation over the weekend but must now wait until Tuesday so that a spelling error in the measure can be corrected.

In his weekly address Saturday, the president called the legislation merely a “Band-Aid” and said Congress must end the cuts impacting other services stemming from $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.

“These cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people,” the president said. “We can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut.  It’s not a responsible way to govern.  There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr272013

Typo Delays Signing of Bill Ending Air Traffic Controller Furloughs

iStockphoto(WASHINGTON) -- Legislators were quick to pass a bill this week that ends furloughs for air traffic controllers in response to the numerous flight delays their absence caused. However, it seems they may have been a little too hasty, as the signing of the bill has been delayed due to a typo in the bill’s text.

According to a senior White House official, President Obama was prepared to sign the bill on Saturday morning, but now must wait until Tuesday because a spelling error in the bill must first be corrected.

It’s unclear when exactly the air traffic controller furloughs and flight delays will end.

Republican Rep. Aaron Schock says that lawmakers are working hard to fix the mess.

“Look, we drive on the same roads as the tax payers, we stand in the same TSA lines as our fellow tax payers so I don't think this is anything other than trying to do what's best for our constituents,” Schock said.

There are some who aren’t happy with the bill for reasons bigger than a typo. Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen doesn’t like that the legislation seems to claim that airline travelers deserve special treatment compared to others affected by the sequester.

“Sometimes the problems of the most politically strong and well connected groups get addressed but the folks that get left behind are the kids on Head Start programs, their seniors on Meals on Wheels,” Van Hollen said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr242013

White House Likes Reid’s Plan to Delay Sequester Cuts

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With the effect of across-the-board spending cuts rippling throughout the country, the White House said Wednesday President Obama supports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed plan to delay additional sequester cuts temporarily.

“We support this effort to allow both sides to find a longer-term solution that replaces the sequester permanently in a balanced way so we can stop these harmful cuts that are hurting our economy and middle-class families across the country,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the daily briefing.

With FAA furloughs causing coast-to-coast airport delays, Reid has proposed an anti-sequestration bill that would cancel the budget cuts for five months, paid for with savings from the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

The plan does not, however, include new tax revenue, the president’s previous sticking point for any such deal.

“We believe that Senator Reid’s proposal is a good one in that it would temporarily delay the sequester and all the negative effects that we’re talking about now to air travelers and families and seniors, as well as the job loss and the drag on our economy, in order to allow for the discussions that the president is engaged in to try to find common ground with Republicans to bear fruit so that we can reduce our deficit in a balanced way and eliminate the sequester entirely,” Carney said.

He stressed that the Reid plan is just a “Band-Aid.” “The fact is, on dealing with the sequester, Congress has to act,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Raido

Sunday
Apr212013

Airport Delays Point to Sequester Cuts

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Air travel is likely to become even more frustrating than usual, starting Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun furloughs resulting from mandatory budget cuts for some of its 47,000 agency employees.

It's unclear how many employees are already affected by so-called sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in this year after Congress failed to reach a deal to reduce the national deficit.

The bottom line is that travelers are faced with the real possibility of hours-long delays as air-traffic controllers -- there are 15,000 of them -- begin to take unpaid leave, the FAA says.

American Airlines has said that some of the nation's busiest airports will most likely be affected by the FAA cuts: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Newark Liberty International Airport; Chicago's O'Hare International Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; and New York's LaGuardia Airport.

This is a relatively slow time of year for air travel, so any fallout would likely intensify in the summer, when weekends rival Thanksgiving for busiest air-travel time, travel experts say. Throw in unpredictable summer thunderstorms, and there's reason for worry, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

But there are already signs of trouble:

@akashgoyal tweeted on Sunday, "Is our gate agent for real? She's blaming a 45-min delay to my flight on 'government cut-backs' on overhead announcements."

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has picked up early signs of delays: Ronald Reagan National is reporting "several minute increased wait times at TSA security screening" on Sunday, the authority says.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reported no substantial holdups on Sunday with the light travel and good weather.

American Airlines, which represents most domestic carriers, filed a lawsuit against the FAA Friday in an attempt to block controller furloughs.

In a statement issued by the carrier Saturday, customers were urged to check their flight status before coming to the airport on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, the FAA has not yet provided specific details to the airlines, making it difficult to communicate exactly how customers will be affected," American said. "However, we will make every effort to communicate with our customers as information becomes available."

Ordered to find a way to cut $637 million from the agency's budget, the FAA is forced to schedule one furlough day every two weeks for an unspecified number of employees, which officials say will mean fewer takeoffs and landings.

As ABC News reported Friday, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a news conference warned that passengers could see "a wide range of impacts across the system," adding that "safety is not up for negotiation during the sequester" and "will not be compromised in anything that we do."

"This is not what we signed up for," LaHood added. "[The sequester] is a dumb idea."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar202013

Charity to Cover Govt. Cuts to Scholarships for Iraq, Afghanistan Vets

Nick M Do/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla.) -- A Florida-based charity announced Wednesday that it will cover the funding cut from scholarships for children of military members who died fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars caused by sequestration.

ABC News reported Tuesday that scholarships were being cut by as much as $2,133.81 per recipient this year because of automatic budget cuts to the Department of Education included in the sequester legislation.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, a Jacksonville Beach organization that helps children of military members who perished while on active duty to finance their education, said it will use funding from private donations to cover the gap left by sequester cuts.

“We work with our children any way to find them all available funding and grants towards college,” Executive Director John Coogan told ABC News Wednesday.

Coogan said the organization dedicates every dollar of donations to identifying children of the fallen, advising them on how best to find grants and scholarships for higher education, and covering whatever costs are left over.

The foundation is nonpartisan, but Coogan said the announcement about sequestration triggered an increased sense of responsibility to help out in this respect.

“I think, generally speaking, it’s important for us to stay focused that the children of these fallen patriots aren’t affected by policy disagreements,” Coogan said.

The challenge for the organization is finding these children – be they infants or just reaching college age – so they can help. Coogan said the organization had already enrolled 1,800 children, but he estimated there were about 15,000 who had lost a parent in the line of duty.

“We’re really looking to increase the number of children that we’ve identified so that we can be sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing as an organization,” Coogan said.

In speaking Wednesday afternoon, Coogan said the group had already begun the process of reaching out to families of those Marines killed in a training exercise in Nevada on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Kids Tell Washington: ‘The White House Is Our House! Please Let Us Visit!’

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hundreds of school kids who have dreamed of visiting the White House on their spring break are now dealing with disappointment.  Their plans have been dashed.

Less than 24 hours after the Obama administration canceled all White House tours indefinitely, parents and children from across the country have been speaking out about their frustration with Washington’s sequester.

Their message to lawmakers?  “The White House is our house! Please let us visit!” chanted a group of a dozen sixth graders from Waverly, Iowa, on a call with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

The group from St. Paul’s Lutheran School, just outside Cedar Falls, received the news of their canceled tour from the office of Rep. Bruce Bailey (D-IA) earlier Wednesday. They are headed for Washington a week from Friday, after months of fundraising and building excitement.

“It’s a major disappointment for them,” said Karen Thalacker, the mother of 12-year-old Malcom Newell, who was to go along. “Our kids have done everything we have asked them to do and more. Now for us to say something out of our control is making their White House trip impossible is really disappointing.”

Thalacker said the 16 sixth-graders are now launching a Facebook campaign to get the White House to open the doors.

“We’re not here to pick sides about who’s right and who’s wrong. We’d just like the people’s house to stay open so that not just our group but groups all across the country can come and visit the White House,” she told ABC News. “It’s very important. They’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. And unfortunately they may remember that this is a sign of their government if they didn’t get to go.”

That sentiment was shared by kids, parents and would-be chaperones all across the country in interviews with ABC News.

“My daughter is so upset we’re shut out of White House tour for her seventh birthday this month,” said Cobey Dietrich of Bel Air, Md.  “She even dressed as president of the United States for career dress-up day!”

Rhonda Helms of North Olmsted, Ohio, said her teenage children — Bryan, 13, and Shelby, 16 — excitedly applied for a White House tour six months ago through the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  Now, their trip in the first week of April will be missing what was to be its biggest highlight.

“Obviously, we doubt the situation will be resolved by the time of our visit to D.C. Very disappointing, to say the least,” Helms said. “I guess the closest we’ll get to the inside is watching The West Wing.”

Tamera Penning, a mother of two from Iowa City who home-schools her kids, said the situation is “very hard to understand.”

Penning and her daughters, ages 7 and 10, had been eagerly anticipating a walk through the White House’s historic halls later this month. Now, their tour is canceled — one of four arranged through the office of Rep. Dave Lobesack (D-IA) in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district.

“I don’t know why both sides can’t figure this out,” she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Poll: Most Back Sequester Cuts Overall, But Not for Military

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For all the dire warnings, most Americans welcome a five percent cut in overall federal spending this year. But the defense budget is another matter.

The public by nearly 2-1, 61-33 percent, supports cutting the overall budget along the lines of the sequester that took effect last Friday. But by nearly an identical margin, Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll oppose an eight percent across-the-board cut in military spending.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

These views come before the $85 billion in cuts this year have taken hold, leaving open the question of how the public will respond once the reductions hit home. Nonetheless, the results suggest that warnings about the nation’s military readiness have resonated, while the public is more skeptical about the damage the sequester poses to federal programs more generally.

Support for a five percent reduction in federal spending crosses party lines in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates; it includes 57 percent of Democrats, six in 10 independents and three-quarters of Republicans. Shaving eight percent off the military budget, on the other hand, is opposed by 73 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents, with Democrats split down the middle.

Strength of sentiment also lands squarely in favor of overall budget cuts, and against those to the military. Strong support for overall cuts outpaces strong opposition by 15 percentage points, while it’s the opposite, by 25 points, when it comes to military spending.

Republicans feel more strongly about reducing overall spending, with 55 percent strongly in favor, 19 and 34 points greater than strong sentiment among independents and Democrats, respectively. Republicans and independents more strongly defend the defense budget compared with Democrats, by 25 and 16 points, respectively.

CUTS – The public’s willingness to cut federal spending overall likely reflects continued concerns about the deficit, as well as frustration with Washington’s ongoing budget wrangles. In an ABC/Post poll in January nearly nine in 10 Americans rated reducing federal spending as a high priority for the president and Congress, in the mix with other top issues such as restoring the economy and restructuring the tax system.

However, a December ABC/Post poll during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations found that majorities didn’t want to cut military spending in order to reach a budget agreement. (Most also opposed cutting Medicare, which also is hit by sequestration, and Medicaid and Social Security, which are spared the sequestration cuts.)

ABC/Post polling also has found a continued preference for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, as well as greater approval for Obama vs. the Republicans in Congress on handling federal spending, as reported in an ABC/Post poll last week. That suggests risk for both sides, but particularly the GOP, if the mood over sequestration cuts turns sour.

It’s worth noting, too, that support for budget cuts in general may be easier to express than support for cuts in particular programs -- again raising the question of the direction of public attitudes as specific cuts take hold.

There have been different estimates of the extent of sequestration cuts this year; the figures of five percent in total, and eight percent of military spending, were reported by The New York Times on Feb. 21.

GROUPS – In addition to partisan divisions, there are differences on views of the cuts among ideological and other groups. Liberals divide on both kinds of across-the-board spending cuts, while nearly six in 10 moderates and just more than seven in 10 conservatives support overall cuts and oppose military cuts. Among those who say they’re “very” conservative, almost two-thirds strongly favor overall cuts and strongly oppose those to defense.

Among other groups, men are 16 points more apt than women to support reducing the federal budget overall, and support for cuts generally also is higher among whites vs. nonwhites and college graduates vs. those with less education.

There’s also an interesting dynamic among income brackets. People earning less than $50,000 a year are less supportive of overall budget cuts, compared with better-off adults.  But on military spending, views differ -- support for cuts peaks among wealthier Americans, those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Finally, this poll finds support for overall cuts nine points higher when the question comes after asking about military cuts (66 vs. 57 percent) -- majorities in both cases, but suggesting more acceptance of overall cuts if the military takes a hit, too. On the other hand, views on military cuts are similar regardless of question order.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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