Frankel, Murphy say Congress should stay in session until budget deal reachedby George Bennett | February 28th, 2013
Congress should stay in session through the weekend and for however long it takes to agree to a plan to replace the automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect Friday, a trio of South Florida Democratic freshmen said this afternoon.
U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach; Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter; and Joe Garcia, D-Miami held a conference call to promote their “No Fix, No Break” proposal and to reiterate Democratic demands that the looming cuts be replaced by a mixture of tax hikes and spending reductions.
Republicans say taxes shouldn’t be on the table after Congress approved a 10-year, $600 billion package of tax hikes on upper-income filers in January. GOP leaders say the automatic spending cuts, which are called “sequestration,” should be replaced with other, more targeted cuts.
When the House was out of session last week, Frankel and Murphy attended a Palm Beach County commission meeting in which Commissioner Paulette Burdick scolded leaders of both parties for spending too little time in Washington.
“Get to work,” said Burdick, who said she was conveying a message from her constituents.
Frankel said she disagreed with the House’s decision to adjourn today and return next week.
“We want our folks back home to know that although we consider when we go back to our district we work, it’s not vacation, the fact of the matter is we disagree with the decision to leave here today,” said Frankel, who plans to return to her Palm Beach-Broward district for work-related events while the House is not in session.
“Tomorrow sequestration goes into effect,” Frankel said. “We believe that we should be here. We should be doing what our constituents all over the country sent us to do, which is try to figure out how to work together and move the country forward.”
Murphy called it “irresponsible” for Congress to take this weekend off rather than work on a bipartisan solution to the fiscal impasse.
The three Democrats repeated estimates that long-term sequestration could lead to 750,000 job losses nationally, including 80,000 in Florida. Roughly half the potential Florida job losses would be in defense-related industries, according to a George Mason University study from last year.
The automatic cuts include $85 billion in budget authority, and $44 billion in actual outlays, for the remaining seven months of the current fiscal year. That’s less than 3 percent of the $3.55 trillion overall federal budget. But because the cuts are concentrated on only on about one-third of the budget, they would amount to an 8 percent reduction in defense spending and a 5 percent to 6 percent cut in domestic “discretionary” spending this year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Frankel said meals-on-wheels programs for seniors could be threatened, while Murphy said grants to The Scripps Research Institute are in danger and Garcia warned of furloughs to air-traffic controllers.
After weeks of dire warnings from President Barack Obama and others about the fallout from sequestration, Frankel, Murphy and Garcia emphasized on the conference call that the negative effects wouldn’t occur right away.
“You don’t have to go hide in a bunker tomorrow,” Frankel said. But, she added, “if the sequestration is left unchecked, you’re going to see by the end of the year all of these issues affected unless there is other legislation.”