Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth is calling on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to end the brinksmanship, and work with President Obama and Democrats to end the automatic spending cuts.
In Kentucky, the so-called sequestration is expected to have the biggest impact on nutrition and education programs as well as enforcing environmental regulations.
For example, a White House study estimates the cuts will take about 1,100 children off of Head Start in Kentucky. The state is also set to lose $2.1 million for water and air quality protections.
Beyond those cuts, opponents argue the sequester could drag down the economic recovery and hurt job growth.
Yarmuth criticized McConnell for calling the proposed cuts “modest” and says the GOP leader needs to take responsibility or his role in the failed negotiations.
“I don’t think that the people of Kentucky or the country appreciate what the sequester is going to do for them. I would hope Sen. McConnell would reconsider and provide some leadership here instead of playing politics once again,” Yarmuth said during a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee.
McConnell has opposed the president’s plan largely because it includes tax increases as part of a plan to tackle the country’s debt and deficit. For Republicans who recently signed on to a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff that raised taxes on the wealthy, there is little appetite for additional revenues.
McConnell says the president should be able to find a way to cut 2.4 percent from current spending levels considering that workers had to do the same due to the payroll tax hike.
“I can’t tell you how many letters, and emails, and phone calls I’ve received about this sequester issue in particular,” says McConnell. “And the message my constituents keep sending is this: replacing spending cuts that both parties already agreed to, and which the president already signed into law, with tax hikes is simply unacceptable.”
Both Yarmuth and McConnell tout constituents who support their arguments. Some say the cuts will hurt middle-class families while others argue it is time for the federal government get its fiscal house in order.
But polling numbers show fewer Americans are paying attention to sequestration, and that less than 28 percent know what the sequester debate in Washington is about despite its effects.
Yarmuth admits citizens are tuning out because both parties are repeating the same arguments from the previous self-inflicted crises such as the debt ceiling and budget negotiations.
The Louisville congressman adds, however, this situation will have a deeper impact.
“This was done without any regard to the impact that it would have on the programs that are supported and the people they serve. And that’s the real problem with sequestration. Nobody understands the total impact that these cuts have because nobody has actually studied it,” he says.
Yarmuth says Democrats have made concessions and put forward two proposals that cut government programs. But McConnell has said the GOP will not accept any proposal that includes tax increases.