Washington state receives roughly 2 percent of all U.S. military spending, with military personnel accounting for about 1 percent of the state’s population.
And after meeting with Army officials, Heck said he learned that Washington state could lose nearly a half-billion dollars in money for the Army alone.
“And, of course, most of that is concentrated in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area,” he said.
The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts for the current fiscal year are part of a process known as sequestration. Congress put the process in place as an incentive for its so-called super committee to come up with a plan to trim the federal deficit, but members of the panel – co-chaired by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state – could not reach an agreement. That set the stage for the automatic cuts.
“This was never supposed to happen,” Heck said. “This was the sword over the heads of the super committee that was so unthinkable it would compel them to reach a solution. … Well, here we are.”
Many members of Congress who now worry about the impact of the cuts voted for sequestration in 2011 and in January joined the president in backing a plan to delay the cuts until next week. And while the cuts are controversial, backers say they could be good in the long run, allowing a gridlocked Congress to take some action to rein in its spending.
Kilmer said the pending cuts have come up in virtually every meeting he’s had lately. On Thursday he devoted his first speech on the House floor to the topic.
“And whether it’s back in Washington state or visits with folks who’ve traveled 3,000 miles to our nation’s capital, the Number One thing I hear about is the reckless and devastating impact that impending, across-the-board cuts would have on our families and on our communities,” Kilmer said.
Kilmer said the a Navy-wide hiring freeze already resulted in the postponement of a career fair at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard last month. And he said he has met with school officials who fear larger class sizes and less financial aid, parents who worry about cuts for children with autism, tribal leaders who are concerned that they’ll have to scale down on community policing or health care, and small business owners who are hesitant to hire or expand because of the uncertainty in Congress.
With the clock ticking down, Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the stalemate before leaving the Capitol last week.
Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said the House has twice voted to approve bills that would replace the cuts. But she said Obama had “failed to bring forward a serious replacement” and had shown in his State of the Union speech that he was “out of touch” with a majority of Americans by not proposing a credible plan.
“If the president does not get serious soon, his inaction will trigger dangerous, across-the-board cuts on March 1 that will hurt hardworking taxpayers across the country,” she said.
On Thursday, Murray and other Senate Democrats proposed a $110 billion plan to replace the cuts, a proposal that included new taxes and different spending reductions spread out over 10 years, drawing a quick endorsement from the White House. They hope to vote on it when they return to Washington next week.