Most of the worst cuts that Representative Tim Bishop had feared from a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through September did not come to pass in a deal struck late Friday night by C.ongressional leaders, the congressman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
“This 11th-hour deal cuts $38.5 billion from fiscal year 2010 levels. We’re still sorting our way through the details, but the pieces of the proposal embodied in HR-1 [the original Republican budget proposal] have all appeared to be addressed in a way that satisfies a great many concerns I’ve had. I’m not yet ready to declare victory, but it appears the essential work that goes on at Brookhaven Lab will be preserved,” Mr. Bishop said, referring to the 20-percent cuts originally planned to the Office of Science, a key funding source for Brookhaven National Laboratory. The congressman also expressed appreciation for restorations to Pell grants, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Head Start.
“This was a fight about Long Island’s future and that future is brighter because we have preserved 1,000 local jobs and cutting-edge research,” Mr. Bishop said in a statement later on Tuesday, announcing he would vote in support of the continuing resolution. “I agree with the need to cut spending and save taxpayer dollars, but we must also balance our priorities like the important research at B.N.L.”
One concern Mr. Bishop expressed was that cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers would prevent short-term dredging work in Lake Montauk. This remains a possibility, and Mr. Bishop said the problem warrants additional attention before the next scheduled maintenance dredge in 2013.
Before the budget deal was announced late Friday, Mr. Bishop stated in a press release his intention to donate his pay for each day the government was shut down to charities that would help make up for the “draconian cuts” that had seemed likely. “I am frustrated that we find ourselves on the brink of a government shutdown which I believe is entirely avoidable. While I pledge to work seven days a week to serve Suffolk County residents as I was elected to do, I do not feel it is right for me to accept a paycheck when 800,000 federal employees — including 8,500 in my district — will not have that opportunity and when federal contractors are facing canceled contracts and layoffs,” Mr. Bishop said in the statement.
With a government shutdown now averted, Mr. Bishop turned his attention to the budget proposals for 2012 and the future put forth by Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the G.O.P.’s chief policy wonk on the issue, and proceeded to attack them as unfair to the poor and rife with tax giveaways for the rich. He was specifically indignant at the suggestion by many that this is a bold policy document because it tackles entitlement spending.
“This is not courageous. I have great regard for Paul Ryan as an individual. I believe he is a serious individual. But it’s not courageous to beat up on poor people,” Mr. Bishop said, in addition to stating his belief that there is “not a shred of shared sacrifice in this proposal.”
The Republican budget document, among other things, proposes cutting spending by between $5 and $6 trillion over the next decade compared to the current baseline of federal law, repealing the Affordable Care Act (health care reform), and eventually shifting Medicare to a voucher-based system as opposed to the single-payer one now in effect. Mr. Bishop called the Medicare change a “massive departure” from the present and said that for those currently 54 or younger, “there would not be a Medicare program for them as we now know it.”
Mr. Bishop also expressed disappointment that the Ryan budget lacked “a job creation focus. There is not an ounce of job development or job creation in any of the proposals we’ve seen thus far.”
Mr. Bishop, now in his fifth term, formally kicked off his 2012 re-election bid on Sunday with a fund-raiser in Southampton.