Top House Dem: Government ‘may’ need to cut federal employees

Chris Moody Chris Moody is a reporter for The Daily Caller.
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With billions of dollars in cuts to the federal government on the negotiating table between Democrats and Republicans, there is at least bipartisan consensus that slashing federal jobs are fair game for the chopping block.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat, said Tuesday that it is likely that government jobs will be cut by the time Republicans and Democrats finish their negotiations on how to fund the government within the next few months.

“That may happen,” Hoyer said when asked if federal workers could lose their jobs. “Frankly some administrations have cut jobs. Clinton administration had a smaller number of jobs than his predecessor, as you may know. And less jobs than his successor. Having said that, all of you are distracted as the American people are distracted by focusing on items in the budget which are significant, but not the major contributors to the deficit.”

Hoyer suggested that the debate over funding the government in the short term — until the end of the fiscal year — was a “distraction” when compared with measures that would need to be taken over the next 20 years to bring down the nation’s $14 trillion debt.

“When we talk about earmarks, when you talk about federal employees — are they significant? Yes. Do we need to look at them? Yes,” he said. “But to some degree it is a distraction in educating the American people of the hard decisions that need to be made.”

When pressed on if government employees could escape the budget debate unscathed, Hoyer said that the “issue is not how many federal employees we have, the issue is what do we want to do? And if we want to do ‘A’, how many people does it take to do that? If we don’t want to do ‘A’, then we don’t need those people to do it. That’s the issue. The issue is not just simply, ‘let’s cut out X number amount of jobs.’ The issue is ‘what do we want to do?'”

Hoyer added that when it comes to making cuts, “everything” would be on the table, including changes to the nation’s entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner took a beating from Democrats last month when he said that jobs could be cut in the process, although his tone was arguably more forceful than Hoyer’s.

“If some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We’re broke,” Boehner said. “It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money.”

Republicans and Democrats are resuming their talks to find a compromise on government spending this week, although they are not expected to reach a deal before the federal funding runs out on March 18, forcing them to agree to another short term funding measure to buy more time for negotiations.