The little secret of sequestration is that the Obama administration could fix much of the problem pretty quickly. But it doesn’t want to.
Congress tells executive branch agencies how much money they can spend and how they should spend it. Sometimes the instructions are broad, and sometimes they are quite detailed. Cabinet secretaries and lower-downs are bound to work within those congressional directives.
But if Cabinet officers want to spend the money differently, there is a long-established process for doing so: They ask Congress for permission. It happens all the time, with lawmakers routinely giving the executive branch the OK to spend money in different ways than originally planned.
That could be happening now. All those Obama administration officials complaining about across-the-board cuts dictated by sequestration could come up with plans to make the same amount of cuts in ways that would create fewer problems for federal workers and services. Then they could ask Congress for permission to do so. Lawmakers would say yes, and things would be fine.
But it’s not happening. And the fault is not with Congress.
In recent weeks, House Republicans have been virtually begging administration officials to ask for permission to move money around. If one program could be more easily cut than others, those Republicans say, just ask us, and we’ll let you do it.