Rep. Kristi Noem got off the phone long enough to actually speak at a committee hearing yesterday. She thought it would be cute to ask USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack about a leaked e-mail he hadn't seen yet that purportedly shows the Obama Administration is trying to make sequester cuts to inflict maximum political damage on its opponents.
What Noem fails to note in her histrionic press release is that Secretary Vilsack gave her a pretty clear answer:
If we have flexibility, we’re going to try to use it to make sure we use sequester in the most equitable and least disruptive way. There are some circumstances, and we’ve talked a lot about the meat inspection, where we do not have that flexibility because there are so few accounts [USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, testimony before House Agriculture Committee, 2013.03.05].
The conservative blogosphere is trying to light a fire under this story, but it's not going to launch. The tack here completely contradicts the anti-Obama narrative. Congress passed a law to cut the budget. The executive branch has to follow that law. Rep. Noem apparently wants the Obama Administration to find ways not to follow that law. That's the sort of executive privilege that conservatives would be calling arrogance and tyranny if applied to, say, not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act.
Rep. Noem is also ignoring an even simpler answer to her question: if she doesn't like cuts to USDA programs, she ought to have passed a Farm Bill last year.
“Instead of writing letters it would be helpful if Congress put together a bill and got it passed,” he said, regarding a plan to avoid sequester. “I’m trying to impress upon you how crazy this all is, and it can be resolved and avoided. All these problems are man-made, it’s not like a drought.”
...“Congress could prevent this by passing a budget and doing their job,” he repeated several times during his appearance in Florida [Sarah Gonzalez, "Vilsack Outlines Potential Sequester Impacts on USDA," Agri-Pulse.com, 2013.03.01].
Make up your mind, Congresswoman: do you want budget cuts, or do you want an uninterrupted flow of government services and handouts to your ag constituents? Do you want a Farm Bill, or do you want cheap talking points to get your picture on the Drudge Report?