Waiting For The White House To Answer

Pete Winn | March 5, 2013 | 8:15pm EST
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It should have been a simple question for the White House to answer: "Will the president be making any reductions in travel as a result of 'The Sequester?'"

At least that's what we thought when asked it of the White House Press Office on Monday. And we also asked a follow-up: "Are there any plans for curtailment of travel for the First Family?"

We asked again on Tuesday. We're still waiting for an answer.

But isn't the only one thinking about the question, however.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, recently called on the president to stop making so many taxpayer-paid "campaign-style trips" to sound the alarm about the across-the-board budget cuts, known as "The Sequester."

"The president needs to park Air Force One, abandon his sequester fear-mongering tour, and return to his job in Washington to actually work with us to cut the waste and finally get Washington to start living within is means," Scalise said on Feb. 26.

Actually, Scalise was particularly incensed after the president's Feb. 26 speech in Newport News, Va., in which Obama told shipyard workers how to think about the cuts.

"Across the country, these cuts will force federal prosecutors to close cases and potentially let criminals go," Obama said. "Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, and that could cause delays at airports across the country. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings, including more than 3,500 children right here in Virginia."

Scalise, who dismissed Obama's remarks as political grandstanding, said what he hoped to do was put pressure on the president, whom he accused of "trying to scare Americans by exaggerating the impact of the cuts."

Still, apart from that, would like to know whether the White House intends to cut down on the president's travel expenses, in light of The Sequester.

However, finding out exactly how much it costs the Defense Department to haul around the president and his family each year is a daunting task.

The last official audit of how much it cost was performed by the Government Accountability Office -- in 2000.

The government auditors put the cost AT THAT TIME - 13 years ago -- at $292 million dollars for 159 trips made over the three-year period Jan. 1, 1997 through March 31, 2000.

But the government auditors said then that even figure was low-balled because it didn't include the costs of Secret Service protection for President Clinton or his wife Hillary, or the cost of carrying hundreds of White House advisors and other government agency employees.

So asked the GAO if it had more recent statistics. The answer, we were told, was: "No, the 2000 audit is the last available."

In fact, the agency spokesman said the GAO only performs audits when they are asked to - "and nobody has asked since the Clinton administration."

The GAO's suggestion: "Ask the White House."

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