Illinois lawmakers weigh in on looming sequestration

By Audrey Williams

February 28, 2013 Updated Feb 28, 2013 at 11:54 PM CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It seems that $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts will take effect late Friday night. This, as Congress has pretty much wrapped up and left town for the weekend, with no fix in place.

In 2011, there was a $2 trillion debt limit increase tied to $2 trillion in cuts. Since lawmakers could not agree on spending cuts then or now, $85 billion in automatic cuts could begin Friday.

Freshman Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, (R) 17th District said, "Anyone can see that across-the-board cuts are bad for our economy. There's no doubt that we need to get our fiscal house in order, but we can do this on the backs of American workers, the middle class."

Certain areas are exempt from cuts like military pay, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but most areas from defense to domestic will see cuts.

"Sequestration can harm border security, harm food safety programs, as well as the airline safety and security," added Rep. Bustos.

Illinois stands to lose more than $33 million in education funds, nearly 3,000 children will lose access to Head Start programs and 14,000 Department of Defense civilian employees will be furloughed.

Now with only hours remaining, neither the House or Senate is acting.

"Many on the Republican side have said they want to go forward with Sequestration. Some have argued, oh it's just a little bit of a cut, but I think it's more serious than that. We're going to have cut back in some very basic things," said Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

Illinois Republican Representative Aaron Schock said, "I'm not interested in removing these cuts because they were a part of the debt limit deal two years ago, but I am interested in make the cuts more palatable by using the scalpel as opposed to the hatchet."

In a last effort on compromise, President Obama is expected to meet with Congressional leaders Friday. If no deal is reached, cuts will start Friday at midnight.

"Not only do we need to cut $80 billion, as we will do here shortly, but more cuts need to be made. We are borrowing 40-cents out of every dollar we spend," said Rep. Schock.

Rep. Bustos disagrees, "We can not cut ourselves out of this problem. We cannot do that."

No matter the outcome, the budget debate will rage on in Washington.