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House Dem tries to blame Secret Service failure on sequester

The White House fence-jumper made it through the North Portico doors (top) and into the East Room (far right). (Image source: whitehouse.gov)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) on Tuesday argued that the failure of the Secret Service to quickly detain a man who jumped the fence and ran into the White House is related to budget cuts under the sequester of last year.

But Republicans rejected that argument in a House Oversight Committee hearing and said Congress has made sure the Secret Service has received healthy funding levels for salaries and expenses.

Norton said she estimated that the Secret Service might be down about 250 people due to the sequester cuts, which hit many agencies in 2013. But Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said they are down even more personnel than that.

"We are close to 550 employees below our optimal level," she said.

"I do think that Congress has to take some responsibility when the sequester went across the board, including police agencies like the Secret Service," Norton concluded.

But Republicans rejected that explanation, and said that in the current year, Congress actually provided more money to the Secret Service than the Obama administration requested. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), for example, said the agency asked for $822.6 million in salaries and expenses, while Congress approved an $846.7 million budget.

"So there is a disconnect here," DeSantis said.

Another Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), accused Democrats of always bringing up the sequester as a reason for the government's failures. But he stressed that there is no basis for using the sequester as an excuse for the Secret Service's failure to process a shooting into the White House building on 2011.

"You're not going to sit there and tell us that sequestration is the reason your agency did not find evidence of the shooting, are you?" Gowdy asked.

"No I am not," Pierson replied.

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