Thornberry talks sequestration with Amarillo leaders - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Thornberry talks sequestration with Amarillo leaders

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AMARILLO - The entire economy is heading for turmoil in just eight days if the federal government does not reach a deal to stop sequestration.

Today U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R) stopped in Amarillo to explain the effect this could have on the panhandle.

Pantex and Bell Helicopter are the two local businesses with the most at stake because sequestration would cut the defense budget in half.

But Thornberry says there will be many more unexpected consequences. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the food stamp program will not directly be affected by the March first cuts.

But Congressman Thornberry said "there will be consequences, even for those programs that are exempt."

He gave the example of veteran health care, which is exempt. But the administration at the VA is not, which could affect veteran services.

Education could suffer with thousands of children dropped from the Head Start program.

The beef industry could suffer because thousands of plant inspections are expected to be cut.

The long-term unemployed could lose an average of $400 in benefits.
    
Those are just a few of examples.

"I think the bottom line, for me at least, is that we do have to cut spending. Spending has been growing too fast, but we need to cut it in smart ways, not these across the board cuts that are going to affect the good and the necessary," Thornberry said.

One of those smart ways Thornberry says is to delay implementing Obama's healthcare law for two years.
      
Last week Thornberry filed a bill that would do just that.

"The healthcare bill is so expensive, that if you delay it two years, you save 130 billion dollars," Thornberry said. "And what I propose to do is to take those savings and substitute those for the savings that would come from sequestration."

Thornberry will work to pass that bill next week, but he's not optimistic about it happening.

"If we are unable to do that, then I think at a minimum we need to pass a defense bill so that there's flexibility to move money around in the defense budget so you don't have to cut body armor the same that you cut the grass mowing at the bases for example," Thornberry said.

Military salaries and everything Afghanistan is exempt from the cuts. But 2500 Pantex employees could be furloughed for up to 22 days, as could thousands of FBI employees.

Bell Helicopter will be affected as well, Thornberry said. But he could not predict exactly how.

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