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Congressional lawmakers address feedback, sacrifices

April 14, 2013

The massive federal budget cuts commonly referred to as the sequester will be felt nationwide and will lead to furloughs at places like Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa., while the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va., is facing layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts.

The sequester went into effect March 1.

The Herald-Mail recently asked Tri-State lawmakers to answer five questions about the sequester and its impact. The first round of questions and responses was published Sunday. The final two questions and answers are being published today.

Those who replied include U.S. Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, and U.S. Rep. John Delaney, all Democrats representing Maryland; U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and  U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, both Republicans representing Pennsylvania; and U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both Democrats representing West Virginia.

Office staff for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa., did not provide answers to the questions, despite multiple phone calls, emails and an extended deadline.

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Capito did provide a statement. In part, it said, “Congresswoman Capito is very concerned about how the sequester is being implemented, which is why she voted twice to replace it. Unfortunately, President Obama refused to negotiate with Congress and is now adamant about making the cuts as political as possible.”

— Compiled by Jennifer Fitch

Q: What feedback are you getting from constituents regarding the sequester?

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.: Marylanders are unhappy and frustrated — like I am. They want Congress to set partisanship aside and find reasonable compromises that protect Maryland families, our seniors, our children and small businesses.

At the recent town halls I have held with federal workers, they want to know why they are being targeted and whether “the public” really understands the important work they do. They certainly don’t want to lose up to 20 percent of their pay to furloughs. They do tell me that they appreciate that someone is out there fighting on their behalf.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.: The cuts from sequester will be devastating, from the National Institutes of Health working to cure Alzheimer’s to the National Weather Service preparing us for storms like Sandy and Head Start getting our children on a bright path for the future.

Last week, I embarked on a Western Maryland jobs tour where, from Hagerstown to Cumberland, I heard directly from local officials and small-business owners who are concerned about the devastating effects sequester will have.

U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.: My constituents have made it very clear that sequestration will hurt small businesses, hurt service members and their families, and hurt federal workers.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.: Most people know that we need to stop the overspending in Washington and proceed with the modest magnitude of the sequester cuts. I think Pennsylvanians know that the enormous federal budget can withstand a 2 percent trim.

I understand those working in the defense industry are worried. I hope they know that I am doing all I can to insist those cuts be made in a smarter way, and do not fall so heavily on military readiness and national defense.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.: My district office in Chambersburg has received a number of calls supporting sequestration because people are fed up with the way the government has been operating.

Everyone at home knows that you can’t spend more than you take in. They understand that you can’t tax your way out of this mess, and they are looking for responsible cuts and substantive reforms. It is clear to my constituents that we can’t continue down this fiscally unsustainable path, and I will continue the fight to bring Washington spending under control.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.: West Virginians understand that we need to cut the fat, not the muscle, out of government programs. They agree that the federal government needs to use a scalpel rather than an axe in cutting $85 billion from the current budget. With that being said, people in West Virginia live within their means and responsibly allocate their earnings. It’s time for our federal government to do the same.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.: West Virginians are understandably frustrated. Those I hear from want our nation’s financial footing to be strong, but they want Congress to achieve that in a more responsible way.

Q: What sacrifices could members of Congress make to help in the budgeting process?

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