Local Politics

Budget debate: Compromise loses out to complaints

Posted February 28, 2013 7:24 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2013 5:18 a.m. EST

— Members of North Carolina's congressional delegation were bitter Thursday that $85 billion in federal spending cuts would take effect Friday, eventually hitting everything from the military to airports to public schools.

Rather than regret over their inability to reach a compromise to avoid the across-the-board cuts, however, Democrats and Republicans continued to squabble and blame each other.

"The sequestration meat ax is likely to fall indiscriminately, with great damage to the economy," Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price said. "I don't think there's much question that it's the Republicans who have failed to deal here."

Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers said there's plenty of blame to pass around Washington, D.C., for the gridlock, especially since there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency about the looming cuts.

"This whole deal was put together in the summer of 2011. This is something, as Republicans, that we have been talking for this entire time," Ellmers said.

The Senate knocked down two last-ditch efforts to block the spending cuts Thursday afternoon.

A Republican proposal requiring President Barack Obama to propose alternative cuts that would cause less disruption in essential government services fell to overwhelming Democratic opposition, 62-38.

Moments later, a Democratic alternative to spread the cuts over a decade and replace half with higher taxes on millionaires and corporations won a bare majority, 51-49, but that was well shy of the 60 votes needed to advance. Republicans opposed it without exception.

"We just cannot increase taxes on the American people any more. They have struggled enough," Ellmers said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said she voted against both proposals, saying neither addressed long-term debt problems.

"It is just kicking the can down the road for another extension. We know this deadline's here. We've known it for a long time," Hagan said.

Budget cuts to military spending could hurt North Carolina's economy, with thousands of civilian defense employees expected to be furloughed. With most cuts to education spending and extended delays at airports not expected to hit for weeks or months, however, elected leaders are digging in for a protracted battle.

"The sun is going to come out tomorrow, and life's going to go on," Ellmers said. "Even though there are going to be difficulties that we're going to see, that different agencies are going to have to deal with, they're going to have to make the sensible cuts that are important."

Price said he sees no good coming from the standoff.

"It's an embarrassment for the greatest country in the world to be in this kind of fix because our politics are so dysfunctional," he said. "Our country just can't collapse. We've got to get this together. I've never seen it this bad politically."