By Peter Nicholas and Victoria McGrane, AP
September 18, 2012, 6:08 PM
- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/David McNew)
Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney suggested he would reduce the federal government workforce if he wins the election and voiced regret that union protections would prevent him from cutting more deeply, in remarks at a secretly taped fundraising event.
The video of Mr. Romney’s private question-and-answer session with donors in May includes an exchange with a man who urged him to “clean house” if he is elected. The questioner described Attorney General Eric Holder as “probably the most corrupt” AG in U.S. history and advised Mr. Romney to target two regulatory agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
In his reply, Mr. Romney said: “I wish we weren’t unionized so we could go a lot deeper than you’re actually allowed to go.” He did not take issue with the characterization of Mr. Holder, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
The video of Mr. Romney’s appearance at the fundraising event was posted by Mother Jones magazine.
The federal workforce as of August numbered approximately 2.8 million people – about a 0.5% increase since Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those numbers include postal workers. About one-third of the federal workforce is represented by unions, according to the BLS.
Congressional Republicans have been pushing to fund the SEC and CFTC at levels far below what the Obama administration has requested. Both agencies are charged with fulfilling a mountain of new mandates under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law aimed at strengthening oversight of the financial system. Mr. Romney and other Republicans have criticized that law as overly burdensome.
Mr. Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, have made clear that they would seek cuts in the federal workforce to boost efficiencies. In a speech in Los Angeles this week, Mr. Romney called for reducing federal employment by 10% through attrition, as part of an effort to “sharply increase the productivity of Washington.”
A spokesman for a union representing federal workers said that firing federal workers involves hard choices that could potentially compromise public safety.
“When you hear comments like this, the next question you have to ask is: Where do you start?” said Cory Bythrow, spokesman for the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents about 110,000 workers. “Do you want to reduce the number of food safety inspectors? The number of border patrol agents on our border, who are stopping human trafficking? Reduce air traffic controllers, who are keeping the skies safe? Once you get into specifics, you’re talking about services that really matter to the American people.”