Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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February 21, 2013

US Reps see jobs, not spending as biggest issue

(Continued)

However, research funding, of which Massachusetts gets a significant share for it universities and Hanscom Air Force base, should be protected.

“We shouldn’t hack with a hatchet the defense budget, just like we shouldn’t with the domestic side,” Tierney said.

He said the recovering economy, along with about $917 billion in spending cuts in 2011 and about $620 billion in tax increases — both figures are totals over 10 years — passed in January and another deficit bill next month to head off the automatic cuts, would reduce the budget deficit to a sustainable level.

They promised to do what they can to protect Massachusetts military installations during base closure talks despite the commonwealth’s loss over the last few years of several influential senior members of Congress, including former Congressman Barney Frank, former Sen. John Kerry and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Tierney said he felt optimistic some bills, including deficit reduction and immigration, could be passed given three recent laws passed in the U.S. House of Representatives over the opposition of a majority of Republicans, who control the chamber.

“It gives us hope that there will be serious votes and responsible governance,” he said.

In 2011, Congress and President Obama engaged in a standoff over raising the federal borrowing limit. On Aug. 2, 2011, hours before the government would have been unable to borrow money to pay its obligations, a deal was reached to raise the limit, cut spending $917 billion over 10 years, and establish a so-called supercommittee of U.S. Senators and Congressmen to negotiate another $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts.

The law also specified that if the supercommittee failed to produce a bill by Thanksgiving 2011, which it did, a round of automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years, divided equally between defense and non-defense programs but excluding Medicaid and Social Security, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals would be eligible for cuts, but cuts to benefits was limited to a 2 percent reduction.

That round of automatic cuts was postponed until March.

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