By Sam Baker - 04/24/13 05:35 PM EDT
The office implementing most of President Obama's healthcare law is not furloughing its workers as a result of sequestration, its director said Wednesday.
Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said Wednesday that his office has not cut its workers' hours and pay as a result of the automatic budget cuts that went into effect in March.
The fact that ObamaCare officials haven't been furloughed shows that the cuts are political, Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) said Wednesday.
"We're talking about at least a 15 percent furlough of current air-traffic controllers, resulting in delays and perhaps safety concerns, but yet this has been a selective political item by the administration," Harper said.
Agencies across the federal workforce have furloughed their workers, cutting their hours and pay, as a result of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Furloughs have caused airport delays, and extend all the way up to the White House budget office and the West Wing.
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Cohen said the implementation office has still been affected by the sequester because it is under a hiring freeze.
"We have been working very hard to avoid the necessity for furloughs," Cohen said. "We are under a hiring freeze, so I can't hire, I can't replace people who leave, which is a serious issue for me in terms of trying to run a program."
A hiring freeze is "not the same" as cutting the pay of existing employees, Harper said.
"Are you telling me, then, that this administration is furloughing air traffic controllers vital to public safety in this country, and yet you're not furloughing anybody in your agency?" Harper asked during a hearing of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee.
"Well, in effect we are, because we can't replace people who leave," Cohen replied.