OTR Interviews

The truth about sequestration 'cuts' and the Washington blame game

Congressional Republicans led by House Speaker Boehner have one message for Pres. Obama: You created the spending crisis, so fix it


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 20, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, here's a tip. If you are reckless enough to create a crisis for the nation, you had better know how to fix it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whose idea was the sequester? And did you ever think that we'd actually get to this point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, it was the White House.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed, it's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone should be clear that sequestration is a Republican policy and it is a bad policy.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: All I can say is the commander-in-chief came up with the idea of sequestration.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE SPEAKER: The president's part of the sequester, and the White House recommended it, frankly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was requested by the president. It was his idea, signed into law by him.

OBAMA: First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed, it's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.

BOEHNER: The sequester was the president's idea.

QUESTION: Didn't that originate -- the idea for the sequester originate here in the White House?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The sequester was something that was discussed, and as has been reported, it was an idea that the White House put forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, it was the president's idea with this sequester was proposed to be put into law a couple of years ago.

OBAMA: First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed, it's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I will concede is that we were looking and the Republicans were looking for a trigger around which to build the mechanism to get us out of default possibility and the sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the president's team.


VAN SUSTEREN: And now the list - House Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlining what he calls the Republicans' common sense alternatives to automatic cuts, on his Web site, Leader Cantor pointing out all kinds of wasteful government spending. Now, here are a few of the expenses he says should go on the chopping block.

First, free cell phones, this program costing taxpayers -- that means you! -- $2.2 billion this year alone. Next, a TV studio at the IRS. Now, can you tell me why the IRS needs a TV studio? And how much is that silly studio costing you? Try this, $4 million a year!

Then what's with all the conferences? Do we really need them? Federal agencies paying for 183 conferences over the last few years, and you know those aren't cheap. Remember the GSA conference in Vegas, the one with the guy in the bathtub? Well, that one cost about a million dollars.

And finally, "pay to play" video games, the National Science Foundation paying senior citizens $1.2 million to play video games. Whatever happened to shuffleboard and bridge? That's free.

Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York joins us. Good evening, Byron.


VAN SUSTEREN: And we are approaching this March 1st date, but let me get something straight about sequestration, just so I understand. When we hit March 1st, if sequestration goes into effect, we're not cutting back, we're really talking about not spending as much as we thought we would, right?

YORK: That's right. Sequestration is not an actual cut in government spending. It's not as if government spending is going to go down like that. It's actually going to go up. It's going to go up a little less quickly and a little less high than it would have without sequestration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why in the world are people talking about things like pink slips for employees? Because it seems to me if we're not cutting, we're actually going up, just not as much as we thought we would, why would anyone even lose a job? Whey does anything -- why would our readiness be at risk in terms of the military? Why anything? I mean, we're right where we were.

YORK: Well, there shouldn't be a lot of federal employees who do lose a job. There's a lot of talk about furloughs. We've talked about, for example, in the Defense Department, civilian employees being furloughed for 22 days in the next six months, which basically means they wouldn't work on Friday for the next six months.

But in terms of people losing their jobs, you're talking about projections that each federal agency makes of how much they're going to spend over the next year, what it's going to cost them, what cost of living increases they're going to give their employees and all that, and they're going to have to cut back on that a little bit.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if they didn't get raises, nobody'd get a pink slip or a furlough, essentially, right?

YORK: You would think, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right. Now, today, you got a shoutout at the White House by the press secretary, Jay Carney. Let's -- let's listen to that.


CARNEY: "Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? The effect of Boehner's argument is to make President Obama seem reasonable. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them." Couldn't have said it better. That was Byron York.



YORK: Well, it's not an honor you get every day.


YORK: What can I say? He -- he -- that was exactly what I wrote, but it wasn't all that I wrote. I mean, what I basically wrote was, Why is John Boehner subscribing to the same rhetorical talking points as the Democrats on this?

I mean, Boehner in his Wall Street Journal op-ed came out and said this sequester will do enormous damage to U.S. national security and to jobs. He said it was detrimental to both of those things, which is President Obama's position entirely, instead of saying that the sequester is a relatively small first step toward getting federal spending under control in a way that would ultimately help the economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then we get back to my first question. If sequestration really isn't a cut but it's just slowed growth, how do we lose jobs? You'd think we'd at least have the same jobs and we just won't maybe get as many as we might have if we'd spent some money.

YORK: Well, they're...

VAN SUSTEREN: And how does -- how does it impede national security if we're at the status quo?

YORK: Well, they're also talking as far as jobs are concerned in the larger economy. If the government spends less in the larger economy, then it would cost some jobs overall. As far as the...

VAN SUSTEREN: Meaning slowed growth, rather than cost jobs.

YORK: Exactly. As far as the military is concerned, I mean, there's a lot of controversy about this. You have a lot of Republicans who are against sequestration solely on the grounds of cuts to the federal government -- excuse me, to the Defense Department. And you've heard today Leon Panetta talking about hundreds of thousands of workers who will be furloughed and he talked about damage to combat readiness.

I would say there's an OMB report, which is from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which says that they believe that the secretary of defense and the president do have the discretion to move money around so that combat readiness would not be affected by these things.

VAN SUSTEREN: Byron, thank you.

YORK: Thank you.