South Florida lawmakers warn of sequester

SUNNY ISLES, Fla. - South Florida lawmakers are awaiting mandated spending cuts that could go into effect March 1.

President Barack Obama and leaders of both parties warn the pending spending cuts bode ill for the nation, but the rhetoric so far has focused on blaming the other side.

On Thursday, Obama called Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate, urging them to work on a compromise to prevent the massive spending cuts.

"These automatic spending cuts that were put into place back in 2011 were designed to get Congress to actually avoid them by coming together with more sensible approaches to deficit reduction," he said.

But Republicans like U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, of Miami, said the problem is the president's demands for additional tax revenues instead of major cuts in government spending.

"We have a long ways to go when it comes to deficit reduction," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "It has to be done in a balanced way. It can't be all cuts. Economically, we can't afford for it to be all cuts."

Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson held a town hall about identify theft in Sunny Isles on Thursday. She said they should be in Washington

"What am I doing here in South Florida," she said, "when we're seven days from massive, indiscriminant spending cuts from kicking in, including in the military, cuts that would kick 70,000 kids off of Head Start, cut education and health care research, and instead of sitting in Washington, hammering out a compromise, working together, we are not in session."

Nelson said the impact of the sequester would be extreme.

"If sequester goes into effect, then air traffic controllers, food inspectors, I mean you go down the list and we are -- and that's not even to speak of half of the sequester is defense," he added.

Nelson said he's worried about less money for maintenance on Air Force planes at Homestead Air Reserve Base and staffing at National Parks.

During a tour to Miami International Airport Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the looming sequester could make this already challenging situation even worse in the form of mandatory furloughs and delays on implementing some of her staffing ideas.


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