With sequestration at the one-month mark in Washington, the two congressmen representing Memphis in the nation’s capital offered differing views on the ongoing automatic federal government spending cuts as a result of a lack of a budget agreement.
Democrat Steve Cohen and Republican Stephen Fincher offered the views during separate stops in the Memphis area during the congressional Easter recess.
Cohen told a group Wednesday, April 3, in South Memphis the process is designed to be “an awful thing.”
“It’s so awful that the thought was Congress would never get to the point that they would use this because this was like the nuclear option. … It mostly resides in the tea party,” he said. “They don’t want to cut funds in the Defense Department, they want to cut funds for human programs.”
At the opening of his new district office in East Memphis Wednesday, Fincher termed the impact of sequestration “unfortunate.”
“Basically it’s a penny out of a dollar,” he said. “The president, we feel like, really was trying to play politics with this. The American people see that our debt is out of control.”
Cohen complained of a proposal to cut $1.6 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health, the agency he likened to a health services defense department.
“While there are enemies in the world … the enemy is AIDS and Alzheimer’s and cancer and heart disease and diabetes and heart disease,” Cohen said. “The fact that we can’t fund the Defense Department that defends all of us with research and cures and treatment is folly.”
“The politics of this is terrible,” Fincher said of the process and the various proposals – Democrat and Republican. “Our budget balances in 10 years. Theirs balances never. … I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pay any taxes. … But when is enough enough? It’s getting to the point where we’re hurting growth.”
It’s far from the first time Cohen and Fincher have differed on an issue.
When both attended the formal opening of the new control tower at Memphis International Airport in October 2011, they debated federal priorities during separate appearances at the same podium.