Rep. Van Hollen: budget deal not a ‘done deal’

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

The House and Senate are expected to vote on a budget for the remainder of this fiscal year. Officials are putting to paper the deal struck Friday that would fund the government through September and cut $38.5 billion in spending. Leadership aides say they expect it to pass as early as Wednesday. But Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland tells ABC’s This Week that he’s not sold on that final budget deal.

He tells Federal News Radio there’s “a tough choice, a tough decision to be made, but i’m waiting to see the fine print.” Since the final figures haven’t been released, said Van Hollen, “I’m still reserving judgement. Obviously I’m very focused on trying to make sure we prevent a government shutdown.”

One thing Van Hollen seemed certain of about the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets: “This is going to be a very big fight.”

He said the 2011 budget is “just a preview of things to come. In fact this may turn out to be a minor skirmish compared to the 2012 budget. That will be the main event.”

The benefit of that discussion will be that it will be on a broader canvas. I mean this debate over the 2011 budget has been very narrowly focused on just 12 percent of the budget, you know, what most people think of as government services and activities – everything from Education to the FBI to Homeland Security, FDA, NIH – all those, what we call non-security discretionary spending, and there was a little bit on the security side. The 2012 debate will be on a much broader canvas.

Expect that canvas, said Van Hollen, to hit federal employees squarely both in the wallet and in morale.

“Everybody should be on full alert because the Republican budget in the House comes after federal employees in the sense that it goes after benefits, including recalculation of retirement benefits and other things. So this is going to be a major battle and unfortunately we’ve heard a lot of demagoguery about federal employees, just as you hear a lot of demagoguery about state employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere and it’s important that…anyone who is engaged in that kind of demagoguery should be called on the carpet because our federal servants are devoted to their public service and they’re doing things to help this country’s government provide services for the people everyday. And so I hope it doesn’t deteriorate further in terms of that conversation, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, and all of us need to be on full alert.”

In short, Van Hollen told the Federal Drive to expect more of the same only more so. “Everyone should fasten their seatbelts, because I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” said the Congressman.

“If we’re successful at keeping the government open on Thursday, and I’m fairly confident that we will, although as Yogi Berra said, ‘It aint over ’til it’s over,’ but assuming we do that then you’d have a budget in place through the end of this fiscal year which takes you to the end of September. It’s very possible that at that time, if we haven’t worked out a 2012 budget, you could see a similar scenario unfolding.”


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