Witness Squashed for Sequester Hype

Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, annihilated an administration official during a hearing earlier this week for overstating the effects of the sequester. The exchange that ensued is not to be missed!

Byron York first captured the story for the Washington Examiner about questioning by Rep. Harris, a physician, during a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

The witness was Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, who was being questioned about the number of children in Maryland who would go without vaccinations if the sequestration went into effect.  A document released by the administration stated: “2,050 fewer children will get vaccines for diseases like measles and whooping cough.”

The transcript:

HARRIS: Dr. Frieden, I have a great deal of concern about a document that my office got from the White House that talked about the cuts that were going to occur due to Republicans and affecting children. And I’m going to read their quote about vaccines for children.  It says, in Maryland, about 2,050 fewer children will receive vaccines due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $140,000. Did the CDC assist the White House in preparing that estimate?

FRIEDEN: I would have to get back to you on that.

HARRIS: You as the director don’t know if you assisted the White House in preparing an estimate that was distributed to every member of Congress?

FRIEDEN: On that specific number, I would have to — to give you…

HARRIS: OK, let’s — let’s forget the number. Let’s forget the idea of how vaccines for children are going to be affected by the sequester. Is this the vaccine forchildren program?

FRIEDEN: No, it is not, sir.

HARRIS: Which program is it? Is it 317?

FRIEDEN: Yes, it is, sir.

HARRIS: And what did the president’s budget do to 317, the president’s prospective budget for 2013?

FRIEDEN: The precise numbers I would have to get back to you.

HARRIS: Does $58 million cut sound familiar?


HARRIS: And what was the sequester cut?

FRIEDEN: Again, the precise numbers…

HARRIS: Does $30 million sound familiar?

FRIEDEN: I would…

HARRIS: You think that’s around ballpark, isn’t it? So actually, the president cut the program twice as much in his budget. Can I assume that the president’s proposed cut would have reduced funding to 4,100 children in Maryland?

FRIEDEN: As per the justification that was published with that, we’ve looked at ways that we can run the program more efficiently by helping state and local health departments recoup dollars, for example, for insured patients.

HARRIS: And you can’t do that under a sequester, but you can do it under the president’s budget? Is that my understanding of your testimony today?

FRIEDEN: I would have to get back to you on that.

HARRIS: So let me get it — let me get it straight. Under the president’s cut of $58 million to the 317 program, you think you could get around that to avoid cutting vaccines to children, but under a sequester, that the president blames on Republicans, you don’t know if you can do that?

FRIEDEN: We’re going to do everything we can to limit any damage that occurs because of the across-the-board cut, but it reduces our flexibility significantly.

HARRIS: Is it your testimony that under the president’s proposed cut of $58 million in his budget to the 317 program you could have avoided cuts to vaccines to children in Maryland?

FRIEDEN: We believe that we could have maintained vaccination levels, yes.

HARRIS: Very interesting. I yield back the balance of my time for now.



About the author

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform.

Full biography