As the clock ticks down to yet another crisis in Congress, local lawmakers visited a defense contractor in Rock Island to learn first hand about the impact of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that will take affect on March 1 unless Republicans and Democrats can reach a deal.
Both U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, oppose the across-the-board cutbacks, known as sequestration.
On a tour of Mandus Group's facility in Rock Island on Tuesday, the two expressed concern about job losses that could happen if a compromise agreement is not reached soon.
Half the $1.2 trillion in cutbacks, spread over the next decade, would fall on noncombat military spending and half on domestic discretionary spending. A total of $85 billion in cutbacks would be enacted by the end of this fiscal year.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated sequestration could result in 750,000 lost jobs this year, threatening the economic recovery.
Mandus vice president Sam Kupresin said Mandus has not yet been affected by the sequester. The companyemploys about 45 people, making military equipment it sells to the Army, Marines and National Guard. The company partners with the Rock Island Arsenal and also sells military equipment to foreign governments.
Rep. Loebsack said cutback concerns have led to early retirement programs and a reduction in hiring at the Rock Island Arsenal. Last month, 200 early retirement packages were offered to workers at the Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center on the Arsenal.
Rep. Bustos and Rep. Loebsack have signed letters to House Speaker John Boehner urging him not to allow Congress to go into recess so work could continue on reaching a bipartisan agreement to avert the sequester.
However, a nine-day recess was scheduled, leaving only four days next week for an agreement to be reached. President Barack Obama has offered a $110 billion plan that would close some tax loopholes and cut spending. Speaker Boehner will only support closing tax loopholes if the revenue is used to reduce tax rates.
Avoiding cutbacks to programs dear to lawmakers was supposed to have been an incentive to reach a long-term deficit reduction plan in 2011.No agreement was reached and, in January, Congress delayed implementing the sequester until March 1 in the hope of reaching a deal to avoid the cutbacks.