White House tours, vaccinations, criminal releases: Administration seeing pushback on budget cut claims

Published: Wednesday, March 6 2013 3:05 p.m. MST

According to a Sunday Associated Press article, the Homeland Security Department — blaming sequestration — released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation in February and had plans to release 3,000 in March.

However, an internal memo obtained by the House Judiciary Committee suggested that although the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency can hold as many as 34,000 illegal immigrants and criminal aliens, the department had around 31,000 when they began releasing them, and planned to reduce the number to fewer than 26,000 by March 31. The committee plans to hold a hearing on the issue soon.

Speaking at a Monday event, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the numbers cited by the Associated Press article were inaccurate, and said that career officials had decided that, due to sequestration, some low-level, low-risk detainees could be put into a supervised release program, and that they planned to continue that.

According to The Washington Times Tuesday, when Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service official Charles Brown asked to spread out the sequester cuts to minimize their impact, he was told to do nothing that would lessen the dire impacts of the cuts that Congress had been warned off.

"We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs. So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be," Brown, in the internal email, said his superiors told him.

The Agriculture Department disputed the report and said that Brown's idea to divide the cuts among a number of states was already part of their sequester plans.

Also on Tuesday, the administration announced that all public tours of the White House would be canceled due to the budget cuts. The self-guided tours were nixed due to staffing reductions, a senior administration official told CBS News.

The cancellations prompted Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, to propose an amendment that would prohibit the president from using federal money to travel to and from a golf course until the tours resumed. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, also criticized Obama, saying that if Abraham Lincoln could keep the White House open during the Civil War, Americans are entitled to answers as to why Obama can't do the same during sequestration.

Disappointed tourists could take solace in the fact that, as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised shortly after the White House announcement, tours at the U.S. Capitol will continue.

"Planning for the possibility of sequestration has been underway for some time," Boehner said. "Consequently, alternative spending reductions have been implemented within the Capitol complex to ensure public tours and other regular activities can proceed as they normally would."

Amidst the sequestration debate, a congressional report surveying agency inspector generals and released Tuesday indicated that IG recommendations awaiting final agency action had a dollar value of potential savings amounting to more than $67 billion, the Federal Times reported.

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