Area Lawmakers Push Priorities As Sequester Cuts Loom | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Area Lawmakers Push Priorities As Sequester Cuts Loom

Play associated audio
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D–Md.) discusses how sequestration will affect the National Institutes of Health budget and ability to give grants to young research scientists.
Jared Angle
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D–Md.) discusses how sequestration will affect the National Institutes of Health budget and ability to give grants to young research scientists.

It's become popular on Capitol Hill to rail against faceless bureaucrats in the federal government, but officials warn that pending federal budget cuts will hurt average citizens.

When Felicia Sanchez was 21, her doctor in Arizona told her their hospital staff couldn't diagnose her deadly disease.

"And then I remember thinking and asking myself, 'Well what am I supposed to do go home and just wait to die?'" Sanchez recalls. "And then he said, 'No, you go to NIH.'"

At the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Sanchez was diagnosed with a rare form of Valley Fever. In fact, her doctor says she's the only person in the world with this form of the disease. Sanchez says doctors at NIH saved her life and kept her from becoming paralyzed.

"I wouldn't know what I'd do without the doctors and the researchers and scientists here," Sanchez says. "I'm only here today because of them. I would just be a lonely empty grave. Faded bones and dust."

Democrats lay out their vision to address sequestration

If the sequestration hits the federal government next Friday, every program at NIH is facing a 5 percent budget cut. NIH director Dr. Francis Collins says if that happens, the research hospital may have to turn patients away.

"This is not just about administrative tasks," Collins says. "This is about real patients, real clinical opportunities that are going to be lost."

So how can Congress divert the billions of dollars in budget cuts set to take effect next Friday? Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) says she is open to making targeted cuts and exploring entitlement reform, but, like the president, she's demanding more revenue.

"More revenue comes from reforming the tax code and plugging up loopholes," Mikulski says.

Besides wanting new revenue from changing the tax code, she has her own ideas of where to find savings.

"We will have strategic cuts in farm subsidies for $27 billion and another $20 billion cuts in defense that will start in 2015, when our troops come home," Mikulski says.

Republican leaders are working on tax reform, but they say to divert sequestration Democrats need to cut spending.

Concerns about Pentagon workers linger

Programs like those at the NIH aren't the only ones on the chopping block, however. The Pentagon announced this week that it may have to furlough the "vast majority" of its 800,000 civilian workers if billions of dollars in budget cuts hit next Friday. That would means one forced day off a week for workers and forfeiting 20 percent of their pay.

That's why Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) says Congress should cut the non-military side of the budget.

"I've already heard from hundreds of those folks that are very, very concerned," Wittman says. "You can imagine taking a 20 percent salary cut for a lot of folks is, for them, catastrophic."

Congress isn't in session this week, and the $85 billion in budget cuts are scheduled to kick in next Friday if there is no action. With both sides of the aisle working to protect their niche constituencies, it's looking more and more like the doomsday scenario of across-the-board budget cuts will soon hit many families in the region.

NPR

Sandwich Monday: The 'Shroom Burger From Shake Shack

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a next-level veggie burger: the 'Shroom Burger from Shake Shack. It's a fried mushroom burger stuffed with two types of cheese.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: The 'Shroom Burger From Shake Shack

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a next-level veggie burger: the 'Shroom Burger from Shake Shack. It's a fried mushroom burger stuffed with two types of cheese.
WAMU 88.5

D.C. Gets A 'C' On Homelessness Report Card

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute released its report card on D.C.'s efforts to help homeless families. Giving the city a "C" average, the card says "the District is taking steps" that may or may not result in any real change.
NPR

What You Need To Know About Subprime Lending For Smartphones

A new startup focuses on offering loans for the purchase of top-of-the-line smartphones. But what seem like deals come with hefty markups.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.