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Wed, Apr 17, 2013

Missouri Senator Blunt Introduces 'Essential Services Act of 2013'

Some Federal Jobs, Such As Air Traffic Controllers, Would Be Shielded From Furloughs Due To Sequestration

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) (pictured) has introduced a bill he calls the “Essential Services Act of 2013” ... legislation he says will "protect American jobs and public safety by ensuring 'essential' federal employees continue to provide vital services" in the wake of sequestration. Those would include air traffic control tower operations, food inspections, border security, and others.

The bill, which Senate Democrats blocked as an amendment to the continuing resolution (CR) last month, would give the Obama Administration the flexibility it claims it does not have to apply the same standards used during occurrences of inclement weather or other government shutdowns to the sequestration cuts to each agency. The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-SD), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jim Risch (R-ID), John Boozman (R-AR), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“There’s no reason the president’s sequester should compromise American jobs or public safety. This bill will help ensure the Obama Administration spends taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in a way that prioritizes our nation’s economy, protects private sector jobs, and defends our national security,” said Blunt.

In April 2011, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a detailed memo to each federal agency outlining which federal employees would be exempted from furlough during a potential government shutdown. Those employees are considered essential “to ensure the safety of life and protection of property,” based on language contained in the Anti-Deficiency Act.

This bill would apply identical language used during government shutdown scenarios to the sequester, defining essential employees using OPM’s April 2011 shutdown guidance, which reads: “[A]n employee that performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency.” This is the same language used in guidance from the Clinton Administration in preparation for the 1995 government shutdown.

The bill drew praise from airline advocacy group A4A (Airlines for America), which released a statement supporting Blunt's efforts. The bill would require the FAA to identify essential government personnel necessary to maintain essential air travel services. "There is absolutely no reason why sequestration cuts should wreak havoc for airline passengers and shippers, the very people who fund two-thirds of the FAA’s budget,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio (pictured). “The FAA applied a similar approach during the two-week FAA shutdown in 2011 without impacting passengers, and we would expect nothing less now. We commend Sen. Blunt for his continued leadership, and encourage bipartisan support for this bill, which will ensure the 2 million customers and 50,000 tons of cargo that fly every day are not negatively or punitively impacted by unnecessary cuts.”

The Department of Transportation has projected that cuts and expected furloughs due to sequestration at the FAA would have a significant, negative impact on airlines, air travelers and shippers. Sen. Blunt’s bill will mandate that federal agencies identify essential personnel who will effectively manage necessary public services during the sequester.

FMI: http://blunt.senate.gov, www.airlines.org


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