TRAVERSE CITY — Automatic federal spending cuts loom if the nation’s political leaders don’t broker a budget deal by March 1, a deadline that prompted U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek to voice frustration with a fractured Republican party and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
“It’s probably my biggest frustration about what’s going on in Washington,” Benishek said of the latest budget standoff, a repeat of the fiscal cliff stalemate ramped up in December and carried into the New Year. If lawmakers can’t reach a deal federal agencies will have to absorb $85 billion in federal cuts in less than a week.
“We don’t have a budget,” Benishek, an Iron River Republican whose 1st Congressional District includes the Grand Traverse region and all of the Upper Peninsula. “The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in like four years. The way I thought it worked is we do something in the House, they do something in the Senate and we have a … bit of compromise and we move forward with a plan.
“(But) with the Senate not having a budget for the last four years, there is no way to come together with a compromise because we don’t know what their position is. So we end up having these short-term things because they won’t do a budget. Then there’s another crisis in three months, and another short-term thing, then another crisis in three months. It drives me nuts.”
Benishek met last week with Record-Eagle editors and said he’s discouraged by what he termed a fragmented Republican party, as well as his party’s leadership in the House of Representatives.
“I’m sort of disappointed with the leadership in the House to tell you the truth,” Benishek said. “We can’t bring a majority together for some things and get a unified position. Without a unified position, we don’t have much strength. It’s been a learning experience.”