Barletta anticipates some ‘heavy lifting’

April 10, 2011

While the White House and congressional leaders praised the 11th-hour budget deal that averted a federal government shutdown, the area’s congressional delegation is girding for more spending battles on the horizon.

“The heavy lifting is still ahead of us,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, said Saturday morning.

A divided Congress votes on the budget this week, then they must approve raising the debt ceiling. Before long, they’ll be talking about the next federal budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and tackling entitlements – long considered untouchable programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

“We can eliminate all the government and at the Department of Defense and still not be stable financially until we address entitlements, because they are open-ended obligations,” Barletta said. “Administration after administration and Congress after Congress failed to do it. But it is the challenge of our generation.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, was not pleased about the process, which he defined in a prepared statement as “brinksmanship” diverting Congress from greater challenges and long-term solutions.

“The difficulties in performing the basic function of keeping the government operating does not bode well for the work ahead to create jobs and cut spending,” he said. “In the future, I hope that common sense and bipartisan compromise can replace politics and posturing.”

During the showdown, Casey introduced legislation to withhold pay from members of Congress and President Barack Obama in the event of a shutdown and a bill to guarantee payment for military members.

Obama, in his weekly address, Obama said “some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful.” He added the deal will not damage essential investments in education, energy, and research.

The GOP is pushing for continued and deeper long-term cuts that would trim $4.4 trillion from budget deficits over the next decade. Democrats and the White House say the plan would wreck too many essential programs.