President Obama is getting lots of attention for his decision to return 5 percent of his $400,000 annual salary (or $20,000) to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with soon-to-be furloughed feds.
But the White House is not disclosing how many of the people–many of them political appointees–who work for the Executive Office of the President are themselves facing the pain of unpaid time off.
According to the Obama administration’s last budget request, the office includes more than 1,800 employees sprinkled around places like the Executive Residence at the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council. Although the administration has said that some 480 OMB staffers will have to take 10 furlough days, it hasn’t revealed whether or not other parts of the EOP workforce are getting similar treatment.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney fended off prolonged questioning on the subject at his daily “gaggle” with reporters. What follows is a transcript–pasted from the White House web site–of the give-and-take. (For the record, presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed staffers are legally exempt from furloughs, as are Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.)
“Q: And to follow up, [the]sequestration impact in the Executive Office of the President — can you give us some data?
MR. CARNEY: Let me see what I have for you here. As you know, the White House is one of 11 components of the Executive Office of the President, which is, indeed, as we have said, subject to the sequester. Within the Executive Office of the President, several offices have sent furlough notices to their staff, including to 480 employees of the Office of Management and Budget. In addition, EOP leadership has managed our personnel costs in a variety of ways, including hiring slowdowns and delayed backfilling of open positions. And as the impact of the sequester progresses, furlough and pay cuts remain possibilities — or additional furloughs, as well as pay cuts, remain possibilities for additional White House employees. Additionally, in order to meet the effects of the sequester, many components of the EOP have significantly scaled back equipment purchases and supply purchases, curtailed staff travel, reduced the use of air cards. And they are reviewing contracts that they have on an ongoing basis to identify opportunities to reduce costs, improve efficiencies without undermining their core mission. It just means that all — everybody at the White House and the broader EOP is dealing with the consequences both — in many cases, in their own personal lives, but in how we work here at the White House, which is true across the federal government because of the impact of the sequester.
Q: Just to follow up, because you can be so specific about the OMB impact, and we assume that federal employees get a 30-day notice if they are going to get a furlough notice, and the fact that you’re not identifying anybody who is working directly in the White House for the President as being identified to that, is that —
MR. CARNEY: The OMB works for the President. It is part of the Executive Office of the President.
Q: Yes, but we’re talking about — I’m talking about the West Wing folks who work directly for the President. Those folks —
MR. CARNEY: Again, I just — I completely take issue with the idea that the OMB doesn’t —
Q: There are many hundreds of people who work for the President of the United States — you know what I’m asking you. So my question is, because you haven’t identified those people who have received any furlough notices, you’re saying that cost-effective shifting of dollars and holding down on dollars is for the time being going to prevent anybody from being furloughed? That’s what you’re saying?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just said that within the Executive Office of the President, a component of that, OMB, there have been 480 employees who have been notified of furloughs.
Q: Right, but you don’t work for OMB. So —
MR. CARNEY: No, but they work for the President, and so do I.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure —
Q: You know exactly what I’m asking.
MR. CARNEY: I don’t. I don’t.
Q: I’m asking — okay, the White House —
Q: Are those the only furlough notices or are there others?
MR. CARNEY: I have no other notices to announce to you. I can tell you that —
Q: Why not?
MR. CARNEY: As I just said, as the impact of the sequester progresses, furlough and pay cuts remain possibilities for additional White House employees. I think you would find at agency after agency, as they make these assessments and make these budget decisions on a rolling basis, they’re having to make decisions about furlough notices and other measures that they have to take, and that is as true here as it is in other federal agencies. Q Well, why can OMB give us a number of 480 and none of the other components —
MR. CARNEY: I’m saying that that’s the number I have for EOP, and it’s 480 at OMB.
Q: So the other 10 components, there is no furlough notices at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Again, that’s what I have for you, Donovan. I don’t have any other furlough notices to announce to you.
Q: So there haven’t been any?
MR. CARNEY: That’s what I have, not beyond what I can tell you. That’s what I know.”