After the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) today announced plans to postpone issuing furlough notices to civilian DoD employees nationwide for two weeks, including those at Naval Station Newport, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the Naval War College, and National Guard technicians, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) said he hopes fewer furlough days might occur, but urged Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats to find a balanced solution to avert these avoidable cuts.
According to news reports, furloughed civilian DoD employees were likely to see their work week shortened one day a week without pay for 22 days between April 26 and September 30, the end of fiscal year 2013, which would amount to a 20 percent cut in pay. However, after Congress today passed a 2013 stopgap Appropriations bill that includes a $10.4 billion boost to the Pentagon's operations and maintenance account, the Defense Department is now reevaluating its options. Non-DoD federal employees may also face furloughs.
Reed, a member of the Armed Services Committee and Appropriations Committee, stated:
"Forced furloughs could cost thousands of Rhode Island workers up to 20 percent of their income. There isn't suddenly 20 percent less work to be done, and canceling contracts, incurring termination costs, and deferring needed repairs can end up costing more in the long run. We need these workers and furloughing them could create a real hardship for families and reverberate through the economy, negatively impacting local businesses and communities across the country.
"Washington must do everything it can to avert these damaging cuts in so many agencies, but the budget brinkmanship that created the sequester is still being used to block solutions.
"The sequester is the result of Tea Party conservatives in Washington irresponsibly taking our economy hostage and threatening to default on America's debt for the first time in modern U.S. history. In the summer of 2011, our nation came within a day of default before reaching an agreement to avert economic devastation. The sequester was designed to be so painful that no one would ever let it take effect. But now some are claiming these indiscriminate cuts as a victory and blocking a balanced solution.
"Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray has offered a more responsible way to reduce our deficit which includes a mix of new revenues and cuts. But Republicans seem unwilling to even consider closing a single corporate tax loophole or ending a wasteful corporate subsidy for big oil companies. The system is not fair, it is tilted. We need reform, we need action, and we need responsible lawmakers who are willing to do what is best for the country and make principled compromises.
"Congress should work together to replace the sequester with balanced, bipartisan solutions that will create jobs and put our nation on the path to sustainable economic prosperity."