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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 18 2013

Kline pessimistic about avoiding massive federal spending cuts

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s senior congressional Republican isn’t optimistic that massive automatic federal spending cuts can be avoided.

“My expectation is that we will see the cuts take effect,” U.S. Rep. John Kline told reporters on Monday after meeting with legislators in the Minnesota Capitol.

Kline cited a report that shows if Washington politicians allow the cuts, more than 4,600 Minnesotans in defense-related jobs will be out of work. He did not have figures for how many others could be affected.

The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are scheduled to hit next month. The cuts would come if Congress and President Barack Obama cannot agree on a fix to federal budget problems.

Kline, who represents an area south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, said the chances of sequestration are “better than even.” The odds are worse than he expected two months ago.

“We are not getting any viable alternatives,” Kline said.

“Minnesotans will feel it,” he added, but less than many other states since there are fewer military-related businesses than elsewhere.

The federal sequestration law gives Congress and Obama no flexibility in where budget cuts would come.

Beyond the cuts, Congress and Obama must decide on how to deal on a federal budget, which expired Oct. 1 but has received temporary extensions. Without a new budget extension, a government shutdown could occur next month.

A third problem comes late this spring or early summer, when the federal government will bump up against the country’s debt limit. That will force politicians to decide whether to increase the limit.

Americans do not understand the seriousness of the situation, Kline said. “It is very, very complicated.”

In discussions about the federal budget, Kline said, some in Congress show an interest in providing the administration and Congress some flexibility to decide what would be cut in sequestration. Without any changes, the cuts are automatic and federal officials would have no ability to decide specifically what is cut.