By Doug Ireland
---- — New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte are turning up the heat in the U.S. Senate to avoid major budget cuts set to begin Jan. 1.
The two Granite Staters are among six members of the U.S. Senate pressuring Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to push for alternative proposals by November.
They sent a letter to Reid and McConnell this past week, highlighting the potential impact of the “sequestrian” or automatic cuts included in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The four other senators are John McCain, R-Ariz.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. “We face a critical challenge in the next few months: balancing the need to reduce the deficit with the need to safeguard important priorities, particularly protecting our national security, vital domestic programs and our economic recovery,” the letter said.
Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement that lawmakers need to come together to resolve the issue.
“It is imperative for our national security and our economy that we work together to prevent the automatic cuts that would result from sequestration,” she said. “This letter reflects our bipartisan commitment to forge a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction plan that addresses all aspects of our long-term budget.”
Shaheen and Ayotte, R-N.H., have said the cuts could have a tremendous impact on New Hampshire. In July, they attended a press conference held by the Aerospace Industries Association where a study was unveiled that detailed the potential impact of the cuts.
The study warned of substantial job losses and $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade to defense and domestic programs. Those potential job losses include 6,300 in New Hampshire.
The cuts would lead to the elimination of $2.1 million jobs nationwide and a $215 billion reduction in the gross domestic product, the study said.
The study, prepared by Stephen Fuller of George Mason University, also said national unemployment would exceed 9 percent. The cuts would also have a significant impact on the Department of Defense and public safety, according to the senators.
“While savings can be found in the defense budget, sequestration takes a meat ax approach that will make us less safe,” Ayotte said.
New Hampshire’s two other members of Congress — Frank Guinta and Charles Bass, both Republicans — back efforts to avert the cuts.
“Democrats and Republicans alike agree these cuts would be bad for our nation’s defense and bad for our economy, too,” Guinta said in a statement. “The harmful consequences of sequestration can be averted with bipartisan cooperation. I’m ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to successfully resolve this situation.”
Bass issued the following statement on Friday.
“As one of eight Republicans and Democrats to offer an alternative budget earlier this year modeled after the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations that would have stopped the sequester and reformed our tax code, I welcome other bipartisan efforts to find a solution,” he said.