Alaska’s members of Congress Monday endorsed the deal to resolve the nation’s debt ceiling crisis, but expressed skepticism about the agreement as well.
The deal reached between top House and Senate leaders and President Barack Obama Sunday evening is being praised for removing the risk to the economy of immediate default by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young in interviews and speeches Monday.
“This agreement allows us to avoid default,” Murkowski told Alaska reporters Monday. “I am prepared to support it.”
The deal calls for nearly $1 trillion in cuts over a decade, with mandatory cuts if agreements aren’t reached.
Some priorities for Alaska legislators, such as Social Security, Medicaid and veteran’s benefits will be exempted, they said.
They’re still reviewing the bill to try to figure out how Alaska will be impacted directly. Alaska is among the nation’s leaders in per-capita federal spending.
“Is Alaska going to see more cuts than any other state? We don’t know at this point,” Murkowski said.
She said her colleagues in states with large defense contractors are definitely concerned, especially if future agreements can’t be reached and automatic cuts kick in.
“I think we in Alaska all know that as a beneficiary of federal dollars, whether its through the Indian Health Service, transportation dollars the at come to us or military construction dollars, if we have cuts like this we will be impacted in all of these category areas,” she said.
Young voted for the budget deal, formally known as the “Budget Control Act of 2011,” when it passed the House Monday.
“I believe this is the best compromise we are going to get,” he said during floor debate.
“We run a serious risk of collapsing our economy and running double-digit unemployment if we don’t take action, and I am not willing to take that risk,” he said.
Young urged the government to reduce excessive regulations to boost the economy, but sharply disagreed with many of his fellow House Republicans who have been urging even sharper budget cuts despite the lingering effects of the recession.
The country needs to boost production, not just budget cuts, he said.
“We cannot cut our way into prosperity. It just can’t happen,” he said.
The spending cuts the deal calls for may ripple through the economy, some state budget officials warned. About 35 percent of federal spending was routed to state and local governments through various programs.
Begich said on the Senate floor that efforts at tax reform that were in earlier deals should continue to be sought.
What’s especially important, Begich said, is closing loopholes, which he called “these scams and shams that people have taken advantage of so they don’t have to pay their fair share for the services and the benefits we all receive in this great country.”
The Budget Control Act passed the House by a vote of 269-161 Monday, with Murkowski saying she expects a Senate vote today.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.