View Full Version : White House Warns 100,000 Jobs Rely On Iraq Bill Passage

12-11-2007, 09:44 AM
White House warns 100,000 jobs rely on Iraq bill passage


By Mike Soraghan
December 11, 2007

The Bush administration is threatening to issue layoff notices this week to about 100,000 civilian defense department employees if Congress will not provide money for the Iraq war.

The move raises the political stakes by repeating a threat to disrupt the financial security of thousands of workers just before Christmas.

The financial brinksmanship comes as Congress prepares to release its omnibus spending bill, which Bush threatened to veto Saturday before its terms were known. It resembles a defense-focused version of the 1995 government shutdown, which left Washington with the lesson that Congress, not the president, bears the blame when government grinds to a halt.

Against that backdrop, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England wrote to congressional leaders Friday that the Army will run out of money in mid-February. The Marine Corps, he said, will run out in mid-March.

“The department will issue potential furlough information to about 100,000 affected civilian employees,” England wrote. “While these actions will be detrimental to the nation, there are no other viable alternatives without additional congressional funding. Your support in providing these needed funds would be greatly appreciated.”

A furlough is a short-term layoff. Workers could be brought back when funds again become available. England noted that the law requires a 45-day notice before workers can be furloughed.

England also met last Thursday at the Pentagon with representatives of unions that bargain for federal employees.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is to appear Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee, where he is likely to be asked about the layoff plans. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the Iraq supplemental spending request.

Congress has already passed a $459 billion defense spending bill for fiscal 2008, but it has not passed any supplemental funding for the Iraq war. House Democrats passed a $50 billion measure to cover the costs of the war for four months. But they tied it to a December 2008 withdrawal, and Senate Republicans killed the measure.

President Bush is pushing Congress to pass the money without strings, saying the delay is depriving the military of badly needed money. The administration began warning of layoffs shortly before Thanksgiving, saying at the time that 200,000 civilian employees and contractors could be put out of work.

At the time, House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) blasted the Pentagon’s warning, calling it a “political document.” Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he believed “the troops are funded right now” from the money provided in the defense appropriations bill.

In addition, Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and a group of Washington-area Democratic representatives wrote to Gates, complaining that the Pentagon was not doing enough to avoid layoffs and layoff notices.

“We believe that the Army and DoD possess budgetary procedures and have statutory authority to avoid furloughs and termination of contracts well into 2008,” the lawmakers said.

Although Democratic leaders are complaining that the Republican administration is engaging in holiday season scare tactics, the federal employee unions are taking the threats seriously.

“I would hope, regardless of political affiliation, the leaders understand that people need income,” said Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. “I would hope they would come to some resolution that doesn’t jeopardize the United States in the form of its federal employees.”

12-11-2007, 07:04 PM
How many dead soldiers and civilians would be saved?