Sequestration is either a legitimate worry or no big deal. That’s the summation of the divergent views of Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, isn’t saying sequestration is the smartest way to cut spending.
He would give federal agencies more control over how to distribute the $85 billion in cuts nationwide.
But Toomey also doubts the disastrous effects of the scheduled cuts.
“The fact is if the sequestration fully goes into effect in 2013, the federal government would spend more money in 2013 than it did in 2012,” Toomey said Tuesday, three days before the deadline for averting the cuts. “It’s hard for me to understand that as a draconian spending cuts and austerity.”
But Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, says sequestration will hurt — and the way to avoid the pain is to cut spending while increasing taxes.
“You can’t say that it’s a bad idea to have this go into place, go into effect, but let’s just have another way to move the cuts around,” Casey said.
Casey says the Senate can vote on a plan this week to avoid sequestration, though it doesn’t appear there’s Republican support for legislation to replace sequestration with $55 billion in tax increases and $55 billion in spending cuts.
Casey says the effects of sequestration won’t be immediate.
“It’ll take some time, but if you have furloughs in a matter of days or weeks, that has an impact. It has an impact on that worker, their family, the economy, the community,” he said. “So this is real life for a lot of people and that ultimately is going to affect all of us.”
Toomey seeks flexibility
At a recent banking hearing, Toomey says while he doubts sequestration will have dire effects on the economy, he thinks there’s a better way to make federal spending cuts.
“It seems to me that the most sensible way to go about this would be to give some flexibility to the people who are closest to these spending decisions — the agency heads, the administration, the OMB — so they can at least make the cuts that are least disruptive,” he said.
The Obama administration estimates the cuts will have a $220 million impact in Pennsylvania. The figure includes $150 million in lost pay for furloughed civilian employees of the Department of Defense.