NH, Maine senators urge action to avoid shipyard cuts
WASHINGTON (MCT) - Senators from Maine and New Hampshire are urging action to prevent automatic federal spending cuts that could delay repairs to the USS Miami at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, cause furloughs for civilian workers and cancel a Blue Angels airshow in Maine.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire were responding to a document released last week outlining steps the Navy will take if Congress cannot avert the across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in March.
Prospects for a deal remain unclear as the new Congress focuses on other issues.
The impact of the spending cuts could include:
. Delaying repairs to the USS Miami, a nuclear submarine that was damaged by fire at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery in May.
. Furloughing most civilian workers for 22 days.
. Canceling an appearance by the Navy's Blue Angels at the annual air show in Brunswick.
The Navy also warned that unless a new budget is passed, the service may have to lay off more than 1,100 temporary workers nationwide this year, cancel planned ship overhauls and scale back ship and aircraft operations.
Known as "sequestration," the threat of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts beginning this year was supposed to push Congress to compromise on addressing the federal deficit. But Democrats and Republicans managed only to delay the cuts as part of a deal negotiated in late December.
Collins and Shaheen wrote a letter to Senate leaders expressing their "commitment to a balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction solution" to avoid cuts threatening jobs in their states.
"This month, we are starting to see the very real and negative consequences of our inaction to our national security and to the economic and financial health of our country," Collins and Shaheen wrote to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The two also raised concerns about the effects of the cuts on non-defense programs, such as federal assistance to schools, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"(The) best way to avoid sequestration is to stop avoiding the choices we have to make and get our long-term debt and deficits under control," they wrote.
"This will require reforms to all areas of spending, including domestic, mandatory and defense, as well as comprehensive tax reform."