NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 2, 2013

Tierney: 'Sequester' cuts to hit elderly first

AMESBURY — While Washington’s sequestration cuts will hit the public more like a gradual “heart disease” rather than a sudden “heart attack,” locally the first to feel the hit will be elder services such as senior centers and Meals on Wheels programs, said Congressman John Tierney at a public event yesterday.

With no deal made on the federal budget by yesterday’s deadline, $85 billion in automatic across-the-board cuts are slated to go into effect. Tierney, addressing a packed legislative luncheon held by the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce yesterday at Ristorante Molise, said the impact of the budget impasse will play out gradually.

“It’s not going to hit like a heart attack, more like heart disease,” Tierney said.

Federal funds for senior centers and Meals on Wheels — subsidized meals that are delivered to the doorsteps of needy seniors — “will be the first areas hit by this,” Tierney said. It’s estimated that nationally, about 5 percent of the Meals on Wheels budget will be cut.

Tierney, a Salem Democrat, criticized a large bloc of conservative Republicans in the House for failing to allow for a compromise. There are many Republicans who want to work out a solution, Tierney said, but they are a minority compared to the bloc.

“We have a continuing problem with about 177 of them running the (Republican) caucus and stopping things up,” he said. In the House, there are 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats and three empty seats.

Tierney repeated a criticism that has been leveled in recent months against the polarized Congress — that gerrymandered districts have resulted in the election of hyper-partisan candidates. While these candidates reflect the views of voters in their districts, their refusal to compromise and their disdain for government undermines what Tierney said Congress is supposed to do: find common ground so that compromises can be made on major issues such as federal spending.

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