Three Obama Adminstration Sequester Claims That Were Not Backed By Evidence

Some of the administration’s talking points have fallen short. Update: Responses from the White House have been included in two of the posts below.

1. The president incorrectly said Capitol janitors would get a pay cut.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

At a press conference Friday, President Obama said, “All the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol — now that Congress has left, somebody is going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage — they’re going to have less pay.” He continued, adding, “the janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”

But after the president spoke, Carlos Elias, the superintendent of the U.S. Capitol building and the Capitol Visitors Center, was forced to email his employees to tell them it was not true, according to CBS News.

“The pay and benefits of EACH of our employees WILL NOT be impacted,” he wrote to Capitol staffers. “I request that you please notify all of our employees about the importance of ignoring media reports.”

Update

White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne forwards BuzzFeed this response: “If you receive income from hourly overtime work, and they cut your overtime, you’re going to get paid less. As the President said ‘they’re going to have less pay.’ Folks who are getting paid hourly aren’t breaking up their paycheck to say, well, technically this portion of my paycheck came from my overtime pay, so I’m not going to actually count that towards my income. They rely on that overtime and they pay their bills with that income.”

2. Education Secretary Arne Duncan falsely claimed teachers were getting pink slips.

Jeff Haynes / Reuters

During a Feb. 24 appearance on Face the Nation, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall.”

The claim, however, was not backed up by evidence.

Duncan then said in a White House press briefing, “Yes, there’s a district where it’s happened. But, again, it’s just because they have an earlier union notification than most, so Kanawha County, West Virginia. In that district, to be clear, it’s Title I teachers and Head Start teachers, so it’s these funding sources that are being cut.

But he added this: “Whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now.”

Kanawha schools superintendent Ron Duerring then sent a tweet suggesting Duncan was right, but the Washington Post spoke to him, and he confirmed that no teachers got pink slips.

We do not know what the cuts are,” he told the Post. “Then we will make that determination.”

3. Cuts to a department that doesn’t exist.

The Associated Press / AP

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) gave a detailed reporter of what agencies would be receiving cuts from the sequester. One of those was the National Drug Intelligence Center that would lose $2 million of its $20 million budget. But as a Reason report finds, the agency was absorbed by the DEA in September and no longer exists as its own entity.

Update

An OMB official tells BuzzFeed, “As required by law, the Sequestration Transparency Act (STA) report issued last fall, and the OMB Report to Congress on the Joint Committee Sequestration issued last Friday assume that discretionary appropriations are funded at the level that would be provided under a continuing resolution (CR) at the same rate of operations as in FY 2012. The president’s FY 2013 budget did not request funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center, however, since the STA report and the Report to Congress assume the government is operating under a CR, they included the Center in their calculations.

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