May 26, 2013
Big cuts spur calls to US Congress from irate constituents
The US Congress is getting an earful about the big spending cuts beginning to hit government services from worried and irate constituents, including one senator's own spouse.
Democratic Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware said his wife, "my most important constituent," asked him, "Why can't you guys get your act together? Do you know what people think of you guys?"
"I told her that Washington needs to work more like Delaware," said Carper, a former governor of the state.
"In Delaware, Democrats and Republicans work together."
They have not worked together in Washington. And so the across-the-board cuts of the so-called "sequester" - which both Republicans and Democrats have said they oppose - took effect Friday night after President Barack Obama and Republican leaders failed to agree on a way to replace them with targeted spending reductions.
Up until the final few days before Friday, when the reductions began because of a law enacted in 2011, constituents urged, some begged, lawmakers to avert them.
The cuts threaten the US economic recovery, could disrupt federal services from airports to national parks, and may force furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and employees of federal contractors, the administration says.
"They want to kill us all," Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said of his constituents.
Laura Zayner, a senior officer with the US Department of Homeland Security at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, was among 400 federal workers facing possible furloughs who came to Washington last week to lobby Congress.
"We consider the furlough a slap in the face. We take it personally," Zayner said. "We are not picking sides, Democrats or Republicans. But we want them to do their jobs and stop the cuts."
John Kelshaw, who works with the Internal Revenue Service, came to town from New Jersey. He and a few other federal workers met with Republican Representative John Runyan.
"We told him that a lot of our people live paycheck to paycheck. We said, 'Give us a break,'" Kelshaw said. He said Runyan, of New Jersey, listened but made no commitments.