The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Bravo Senator Coburn!

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


We’ve heard a lot of whining and seen a lot of hand wringing about how awful the the sequester is to the nation’s economy.  (The sequestration is the automatic budget cuts imposed by Congress that is occurring in the federal government.)  We hear about federal employees being furloughed, children not being able to attend school, grandmas resorting to eating dog food, and how airplanes will fall out of the sky if Congress doesn’t reverse course on the spending cuts.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and his staff have been doing a yeoman’s job in countering the cacophony by providing lots of facts and suggestions on where cuts could occur as opposed to much of the political gamesmanship that is going on to make a point, such as shutting down White House tours.  I urge you to visit “Sequester This” on the Senator’s website.  There the Senator provides a list of possible budget cuts and asks the “Administration to Make Smart Cuts to Waste and Duplication in Series of Letters on Sequestration.”

Just today, the Senator points out in an August 2 letter to Judge John Bates, the Director of the Administration Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC), there are better ways to cut spending in the Judicial Branch as opposed to furloughs, cancelling hearings, or dismissing cases.

Senator Coburn notes that the total budget request for the Judiciary in Fiscal Year 2013 is $7.12 billion and of that, some 72 percent is allocated to the salaries and expenses and the remaining is for other expenditures.  Coburn says in his letter “that rather than properly assess both the salaries and expenses account and the remaining 28 percent of the budget dedicated to other expenditures, the AOUSC and various judicial officers assert there is no flexibility within the budget of the Judiciary to make cuts to comply with the sequester and also fulfill its constitutional duties” 

But Coburn points out there has been a lot of press that demonstrates conferences within the Judiciary system “are alive and well” and observed that just before the July 4 holiday, “the Fourth Circuit held its annual conference at the upscale Greenbrier Resort a few hours outside of Washington, D.C.  One hundred and fifty judges and their staff enjoyed these accommodations at a cost to the taxpayers of $270 per night per room.  As a result, rather than staying open to address a busy docket, many Fourth Circuit courtrooms were empty on Friday.  In times of limited financial resources and fear that furloughs may cause cancellation of hearings, the AOUSC should prioritize the administration of justice over a conference.”  Bravo Senator Coburn!

Senator Coburn goes on to list some of the conferences that have been held in the recent past such as the Ninth Circuit’s 2012 conference held in Maui, Hawaii or the Eighth Circuit’s conference in Kansas City, Missouri where “judges were provided the opportunity to participate in the College Basketball Experience, which included a slam dunk competition and Judges were ‘encouraged to wear [their] favorite team or school attire.’”

Now perhaps one could argue that these conferences were held prior to when the sequester cuts actually began on March 1, 2013 but we learn that the Third Circuit will be having their 2014 conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania at the Hershey Lodge and that "they 'expect 'high conference attendance' and will be hosting various bench and bar receptions and dinners."

In addition to pointing out to the AOUSC that prioritizing essential to non-essential conferences should be occurring on a routine basis, there are plenty of other areas to cut waste such as stopping the construction of unneeded courthouses.

I urge you to visit Senator Coburn’s “Sequester This” website often.  It provides great antidotes to the continued barrage of reasons why the sequester must be halted.

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