WASHINGTON -- Escalating a small drama that's becoming increasingly politicized, House Republicans have asked the Labor Department to turn over documents related to the agency's recommendation that defense contractors refrain from issuing layoff notices due to looming defense budget cuts ahead of the fall elections.
The job losses, expected due to sequestration, could become a campaign issue for President Barack Obama and other politicians on both sides of the aisle, as layoff notices could go out to workers shortly before voters head to the polls in November.
As AOL Defense has reported, earlier this week the Labor Department sent out guidance to contractors saying the layoff notices wouldn't need to go out 60 days ahead of sequestration, as many expected they would under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Republicans, such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), claimed the guidance was "politically motivated" and legally dubious, suggesting the White House simply wanted to avoid a politically damaging situation in an election that's all about jobs.
On Thursday, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) sent a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking that the agency turn over all of its internal correspondence related to its guidance to contractors on the WARN Act.
"The recent 'guidance' issued by the Obama administration is a political document that underscores the legal uncertainty facing employers and leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their jobs," Kline said in a statement. "The president can end the debate over the WARN Act right now by providing real transparency to the sequestration process and working with Congress on responsible reforms that will help fix the nation’s debt crisis."
In its guidance, the Labor Department essentially said that the layoff notices wouldn’t need to be issued since it isn't clear whether sequestration will actually happen. Lawmakers, in theory, still have time to avoid the sequestration cuts if they can reach a compromise.
The layoffs would be the result of the debt deal hammered out between the White House and Congress last year. The campaign for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has tried to make an issue out of the looming defense layoffs, particularly in Virginia, a crucial swing state with a large number of defense jobs.