On March 1, harmful government cuts known as sequestration will go into effect if Congress does not act. With nearly 40 percent of our local economy tied to the federal government, the Washington metropolitan region will be one of the hardest hit in the country.
Sequestration requires federal agencies to cut $85 billion from their budgets, but with little more than half of the fiscal year remaining, these cuts will be even more painful. Further, these cuts are across the board, meaning every program will be reduced, with no priority given to even the most sensitive and important government functions, from FBI investigations to air traffic control.
I voted against the Budget Control Act, the legislation that created sequestration, out of a concern that Congress could not find compromise on $1.2 trillion in budget savings. Unfortunately, I was right and we now face a situation that would have a disastrous impact on our region and the country.
The most immediately felt impacts will be on the 65,000 federal employees who live in the 8th District.
Federal workers are likely to be furloughed for up to 22 days – through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. That is the equivalent of a 15-16 percent reduction in monthly take home pay. For all federal workers – particularly those with a mortgage, car payments and children in college – it’s going to have a major impact. And for our local restaurants, retail stores and other companies that depend on consumer spending, it will be painful.
Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee issued a report detailing what federal employee furloughs and job losses may look like under sequestration. Examples include:
• Furloughs of 10 percent of the FAA’s workforce on any given day
• Furloughs at the FBI that will lead to the attrition of 145 attorney positions
• Furloughs of 12-14 days Customs and Border Patrol officers and agents
• Furloughs of up to 22 days for every one of DoD’s 800,000 civilian employees
• Job losses for 10,500 teachers and aides at Title I schools
• Job losses for up to 7,500 Head Start employees
• FEMA cuts that could lead to state and local emergency personnel job losses
The furloughs and layoffs listed above would disrupt vital services provided by the federal government. President Obama rightly noted this week that “if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research.”
We can stop this preventable economic disaster by passing legislation that identifies $1.2 trillion in budget savings, through a responsible package that includes smart, targeted spending reductions, the closure of tax loopholes, and reforms to entitlement programs that do not impact current beneficiaries.
Congress can resolve our long-term deficit and debt challenges without jeopardizing our economic recovery, compromising our national security or disrupting the operations of the federal government. The clock is ticking; Congress must take action to prevent these cuts.