Senators, representatives react to budget deal

With the U.S. Senate expected to pass the 2014 budget, and go to President Barack Obama for his signature today, both sides are backing off the brinksmanship battle, showing more bipartisanship.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, supports the measure, saying not only would it avert another government shutdown, but reduce hurtful cuts.

“Programs that help create jobs in Pennsylvania such as Community Development Block Grants and NIH medical research will likely face fewer cuts under this deal,” Casey said.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, said he would vote against the budget, saying, “This deal establishes new, higher budget caps to increase spending. The deal purports to offset those increases, but it does so, in some cases, with gimmicks and to a large degree with higher revenues.”

The House passed the two-year budget 332-94 last week, and it devotes $23 billion to reducing the deficit over the coming decade.

U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Marino, R-Cogan Station, voted for it, and said while he’s not “crazy about it,” it’s a good, balanced effort to reduce the deficit from both sides of the aisle.

“People are tired of the gridlock. This is a great example of bipartisan support,” he said.

“I am satisfied with putting a cap on spending, and starting now to working toward a surplus and paying the debt down. It’s going to downsize the government and spending, which is what we need to do,” Marino said.

He said it sets overall spending at just over $1 trillion, down from what Democrats wanted.

Sequestration cuts were set at about $85 billion, and he said the budget slices that down to $63 billion over the next two years.

Passing the budget puts the power of the purse strings back in Congress’s hands rather than the president’s, he said, which is where it belongs Constitutionally.

Still, when it comes time in early 2014 to do the appropriations process of the budget, filling in the details of how the money gets spent, will be the “interesting part,” Marino said.

“A good indication of willingness to work together” will come in January, he said. “Let’s see how far it goes when we crunch numbers and talk about the debt ceiling.”

He advocates going through line by line, looking at costs, and requiring those receiving funds to prove necessity and efficiency.

“We have to trim the fat collectively as Congress,” he said.

Marino noted if this budget deal would’ve been on the table last go around, he would’ve voted for it first thing.

The legislation also prohibits prisoners from receiving Social Security while imprisoned, and adds an aviation user fee of $2.50 per flight increase per person. He noted that increase helps make flights safer as it funds the Transportation Security Administration.

U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson also voted in favor of it, saying, “It was a good plan, though it wasn’t perfect.”

“It continues to move the country in the direction it needs to go in terms of becoming more fiscally responsible,” Thompson said.

He said the budget tackles some mandatory spending reforms, which represents 60 percent of annual spending. That included pension reforms for both civilian employees and in the military. He emphasized it “does not decrease the pension amount to retirees or future retirees,” but reduces the annual cost of living increase by 1 percent for those actively working after they leave the military.

“I was pleased we were able to deal with a federal perspective regarding pensions,” Thompson said.

He noted secondary benefits added on to the bill were a fixing a 23 percent reimbursement cut for Medicare patients, which would “devastate health care providers.”

The transboundary energy bill was passed with it, and reduces some of the barriers for American companies to work with Mexican companies to develop energy resources, Thompson said. He contends it will create jobs and “will go a long ways in reducing illegal immigration.”