Walz: Stalemate is humiliating

The automatic federal spending cuts set to begin taking effect today won’t be as devastating or far-reaching as some of his colleagues and some in the Obama administration have suggested, according to Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato.

But they also won’t be as harmless and imperceptible as some lawmakers on the right have claimed, Walz said. The arbitrary $85 billion in cuts will slow economic growth and undermine the government’s most effective programs along with the weaker programs that deserve even deeper cuts.

One thing both sides should be able to agree upon, according to the four-term Democrat, is that the implementation of the sequestration is an embarrassment.

“This is a horrible way to do the country’s business,” Walz said.

The sequestration comes out of a 2011 compromise to end a stalemate over increasing the nation’s debt limit, which Walz voted for. The compromise created a super-committee of current and former lawmakers which was assigned to develop a comprehensive plan to eliminate federal deficit spending. Under the legislation, if the super-committee couldn’t agree on a plan (which it couldn’t) or Congress failed to pass the plan, the automatic cuts would be implemented unless Congress and the president reached agreement on an alternative to the sequester (which they couldn’t).

That bigger budget deal — one that systematically reduces and then eliminates deficit spending over many years — still has to be the goal, Walz said.

“It’s the only way to get out of this cycle of crises,” he said.

And they will keep coming. A major impact of the sequester cuts is expected in about 30 days, when furloughs of federal workers would begin. Late March is also when the federal government’s spending authority will expire and government will shut down if Congress and the White House can’t agree on a continuing resolution.

By May, the nation’s previously authorized expenditures are expected to run into the debt ceiling — creating another crisis if gridlock persists at the Capitol. And on Sept. 30, a new federal budget is required to keep the government running.

Short of compromise, each step could bring another round of uncertainty and partisan bickering.

“What I’m hearing loud and clear … people are sick and tired of this crisis form of governing — one crisis after the next,” Walz said.

About 350 House members are from districts so solidly Republican or so solidly Democratic they’re afraid to compromise with the opposing party, Walz said.

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