Skip to main content

Sequester cuts hurting our kids, elderly

By Rep. Rick Larsen, Special to CNN
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon April 29, 2013
Children eat at a Head Start school in Woodbourne, New York, which provides early education to kids from low-income families.
Children eat at a Head Start school in Woodbourne, New York, which provides early education to kids from low-income families.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rick Larsen: Congress helped air travelers, but not others suffering from sequester cuts
  • Larsen says Congress made a Band-Aid fix when sequestration needs surgery
  • Larsen: Head Start cut, military community schools hurting, Meals on Wheels cut
  • Congress can fix this with a balanced approach of spending cuts, new revenues, he says

Editor's note: Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, is the ranking member of the House Aviation Subcommittee.

(CNN) -- Air travelers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief that they might get to their destinations on time after Congress took action to roll back a part of the automatic spending cuts that forced furloughs on air traffic controllers.

As someone with a 2,300-mile commute, I understand the frustration that travelers felt as delays tripled to nearly 9,000 by Thursday evening -- I am pleased air traffic controllers are back on the job full-time.

I am not relieved, however, that Congress gave the Obama administration authority to end furloughs but has not yet done a single thing to help the many Americans who are suffering the consequences of these cuts.

Rick Larsen
Rick Larsen

Congress made a Band-Aid fix when sequestration needs a triple-bypass surgery.

In my district, and across the country, kids are being turned away from early education programs like Head Start. Children in military communities are being hit especially hard because federal dollars that support their schools have been slashed. And communities are reporting that funding cuts are forcing them to kick some seniors off Meals on Wheels.

But it was business travelers and vacationers who took center stage last week, and it was for them alone that Congress acted. On Friday morning, just hours before many in Congress would head to the airport to catch flights home for a weeklong district work period, the House of Representatives voted to end the furloughs of air traffic controllers.

House votes to stop FAA furloughs

Airline passengers can now count on more reliable service. But the kids in my district who are losing their school bus can't book a flight to class.

When Congress passed sequestration, it was considered such an unthinkable option with such unfathomable consequences that it would have to be replaced. Members from both sides of the aisle gave long speeches about the harm that would come if we allowed the sequester to go into place unmodified.

And yet Republicans seemed to be shocked, shocked, to find flight delays ripple through airports across the country. They ran to television cameras to point fingers at President Obama, saying these delays were preventable. I am not sure what they expected to happen. It would be irrational to expect that we can cut more than $600 million from the FAA budget in six months and not see effects on the flying public. Just as we should not expect that we can cut 4 million meals to seniors, as the White House reports, and not hurt them.

Everyone in America who watched CNN last week learned the sequester has real consequences. While members of Congress aren't getting a lot of calls for 4-year-olds being turned away from Head Start programs, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Their voices may not be as loud as air travelers were last week, but their pain is greater.

Congress can and should pass legislation that will replace the entire sequester with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes spending cuts, reduction in future spending growth, and new revenues. Congress created this problem. We need to fix it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rick Larsen.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT