Yarmuth Says Cuts Will Hurt Vulnerable Kentuckians

Mar 8, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  -- Kentucky's most vulnerable residents will be hurt by federal spending cuts touching a broad range of programs, the state's only Democratic congressman said Friday.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth offered a counterpoint to the state's most powerful Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said recently that the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts were modest and didn't pose a risk to a national economy still recovering from a deep downturn.

Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, said the cuts mean fewer Kentucky children will have access to Head Start, fewer will receive vaccinations and some low-income women will miss out on cancer screenings. Programs like Meals on Wheels will also feel the pinch, he said.

"We're losing very critical support to many of our most vulnerable citizens," Yarmuth said during a conference call arranged by the Democratic National Committee. "These are real cuts. ... They come at the wrong time, when many economists say we should be doing more in the way of stimulative activity."

Federal funding for education and medical research in Kentucky will also be cut, he said.

McConnell, who is gearing up for his re-election campaign next year, said he's hearing from many Kentuckians urging him to let the budget cuts stand.

"It's absurd to think that the government cannot get by with a little more than a 2 percent reduction in spending when every working American had to figure out how to make due with 2 percent less in their paychecks last month," McConnell said.

Yarmuth countered that the cuts are deeper than that for the targeted programs because large parts of the budget are off-limits, including programs for veterans, Social Security and Medicare benefits. The cuts would total $85 billion through the end of the current budget year - Sept. 30 - half each from defense and non-defense programs.

Yarmuth accused McConnell and other congressional Republicans of blocking action on "a much more sensible approach" to dealing with the nation's debt problems, one that is "balanced and also doesn't harm our economic recovery." Yarmuth noted that President Barack Obama's proposal to replace the automatic budget cuts included doing away with a literacy program that the Louisville congressman authored.

Yarmuth was joined on the conference call by Iraq War veteran Mike Moynahan, who works for a non-profit group in Kentucky that assists the poor.

Moynahan said he worried about cuts to programs that weatherize homes and assist families at risk of having their utilities shut off.

He urged McConnell to "come home and look into the eyes of Kentuckians who will suffer most." He said the budget cuts aren't "a pittance to these families. These programs are a helping hand for those in need."