By Don Davis
Minnesota’s senior congressional Republican shows little optimism that massive automatic federal spending cuts can be avoided.
“My expectation is that we will see the cuts take effect,” U.S. Rep. John Kline told reporters Monday after meeting with legislators in the Minnesota Capitol.
Kline cited a report that shows if Washington politicians allow the cuts, more than 4,600 Minnesotans in defense-related jobs will be out of work. He did not have figures for how many others could be affected.
The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are scheduled to hit next month. The cuts would come if Congress and President Barack Obama cannot agree on a fix to federal budget problems.
Kline, who represents an area south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said the chances of sequestration are “better than even.” The odds are worse than he expected two months ago.
“We are not getting any viable alternatives,” Kline said.
“Minnesotans will feel it,” Kline added, but less than many other states since there are fewer military-related businesses than elsewhere.
The federal sequestration law gives Congress and Obama no flexibility in where budget cuts would come.
Beyond the cuts, Congress and Obama must decide on how to deal on a federal budget, which expired last Oct. 1 but has received temporary extensions. Without a new budget extension, a government shutdown could occur next month.
A third problem comes late this spring or early summer, when the federal government will bump up against the country’s debt limit. That will force politicians to decide whether to increase the limit.
Americans do not understand the seriousness of the situation, Kline said. “It is very, very complicated.”
Obama said earlier this month that lots of private and public jobs are at risk.
“There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn’t come together to eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes or government programs that we agree need some reform,” he said.
Republicans say Obama got his way at the end of 2012 when federal officials agreed to let some taxes increase while keeping George W. Bush-era tax cuts to remain for many Americans. GOP members of Congress say they will not agree to further tax increases Obama and other Democrats seek to help reduce the federal debt.
The White House says Americans whose jobs are not threatened still would feel a sequester’s impact. For instance, the country’s meat supply could dry up because the federal cuts would suspend meat inspectors’ jobs.
Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a Stillwater, Minn., native said the president is working on ways to trim $4 trillion of federal debt in the next 10 years after eliminating an estimated $2.5 trillion over that same period.
“He’s ready to do another $1.5 trillion to get up to the $4 trillion target that economists across the country tell us is needed to stabilize the debt over the next 10 years,” McDonough said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
In discussions about the federal budget, Kline said, some in Congress show an interest in providing the administration and Congress some flexibility to decide what would be cut in sequestration. Without any changes, the cuts are automatic and federal officials would have no ability to decide specifically what is cut.