With the deadline for automatic cuts in federal spending looming on March 1, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch said the Massachusetts congressional delegation will be united in opposing the cuts.
The across the board cuts called “sequestration,” $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade split between domestic and defense spending, were put in place by Congress after Congress was unable to reach a budget deal in 2011.
Lynch, a South Boston Democrat running for U.S. Senate, said he thinks there is consensus among the all-Democratic Massachusetts delegation that sequestration should not be allowed to go into effect. Lynch said sequestration would result in cuts of between 7 and 10 percent in every area of government. “The problem is all budgets are not equal,” Lynch said at a New England Council breakfast on Monday.
Lynch said in areas like special education and medical research, “if you cut 10 percent of those budgets, they’re basically holding on by their fingernails.” Lynch speculated that Democrats may try to hold harmless some areas of the budget – like education, student loans, veterans affairs and Medicare.
One area where Lynch said cuts should be possible is in the approximately $800 billion a year defense budget. Republicans have generally advocated for sparing the defense budget from cuts, while Democrats have said it can be trimmed. Lynch pointed to a vote he took to cut funding for a F-22 fighter project that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed eliminating. “Some large, complex multi-decade weapons projects, we have to decide whether we really need them and want to pay for them,” Lynch said.
Lynch acknowledged that government debt is a problem. But referring to those Republicans who favor sequestration, Lynch said, “One of the problems with the Republican view of this is they’re trying to turn this thing around like it was a Fiat. It’s an aircraft carrier. You have to make adjustments slowly and turn it around, otherwise, it will collapse the economy and harm a lot of people.” (Many GOP leaders also oppose sequestration.)
Lynch said government must focus on increasing economic growth to generate new revenue, rather than just looking at spending and tax policy.
What to do about sequestration is expected to be a major battle in Congress over the next three weeks.
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