18 Months After "No" Votes, Iowa Congressmen Face Fed Budget Cuts

By Chris Earl, Reporter

HIAWATHA, Iowa - Bruce Braley spent his Friday afternoon in Hiawatha, listening to mothers of young children amid the endless buzz about sequestration.

"People thought that having a year (long) buffer when it happened and when these cuts would go into effect would be enough time," said the fourth-term Democrat from Waterloo. "Here we are, a year later and nothing has happened."

Braley sat at the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program and listened to four mothers explain why some child-based programs to help those just outside of poverty, such as Head Start, are so invaluable and should not be cut.

"For these children, we would be losing out on a quality education," said Christina Connor, when talking with Braley.

HACAP leaders estimate the federal budget cuts that automatically took effect on Friday could lead to 62 closed slots for the 740 children served in programs such as Head Start.

This comes as leaders in Congress were unable to reach a deal to cut approximately $85 billion in federal spending, roughly 2.4 percent of the annual budget.

While a buzzword from some politicians involves the phrase "working families," most American workers are already experiencing less take home pay in 2013. The FICA payroll tax holiday expired on January 1, raising nearly every working Americans taxes by 2 percent. Workers with more expensive costs, such as health insurance, are seeing even fewer dollars than last year with the same base pay.

We asked both Braley and Congressman Dave Loebsack, a fourth-term Democrat from Iowa's Second District, about how workers already experiencing less money coming in can sympathize with a federal government unable or unwilling to cut 2.4 percent.

Braley said targeted cuts are the answer and cutting programs such as Head Start are not.

"Little impacts like these programs can have a huge benefit in their lives and pulling themselves out of poverty and staying off unemployment," said Braley. "Without Head Start, some of these families would go back on unemployment because they cannot afford quality day care and we go back in this vicious cycle."

Loebsack was also one of the few in Congress supporting keeping the FICA tax holiday through 2013.

"This is not going to be good for anyone," said Loebsack of the automatic cuts. "It's not 2.4 percent where it affected the programs or the individuals affected. Where sequestration affects the budget, it will be at least 5 percent. In some cases, double-digits."

What is intriguing about Iowa's position on this budget battle. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed.

None of the state's members of Congress supported this in 2011.

18 months ago, both Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin voted against the Budget Control Act, also known as the legislation to raise the debt ceiling. Iowa still had five members of the House in 2011 and all five voted against it.

The House passed it 269-161. (Iowa with 5 'no' votes, 0 'yes' votes)
The Senate passed it 74-26.

Iowa was the only state where all members of Congress voted against the Budget Control Act.
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