He has introduced a bill to deal with that issue.
Sequestration has begun, and severe budget cuts and furloughs of federal workers are expected to take place over the next several weeks. On Friday night, President Obama signed an order to begin $85-billion in cuts that he opposed, and tried to stop.
8th District Congressman Chris Van Hollen says he's ready to go back to Washington to work on a solution to sequestration. "I was very upset that the Congress adjourned," he said. "I've got my keys right here. I'm ready to head right down to the Capitol to pass a law to prevent the sequester."
Van Hollen also says he has a bill in Congress that would prevent sequestration from getting worse. He says it contains cuts, but also ways to raise revenue by closing some tax loopholes. "What it would do is eliminate direct payments, agricultural subsidies. It would also get rid of tax breaks for big oil companies, something George Bush supported when he was president," he says. In addition, Americans making more than $2-million annually would have to pay 30% of their income in taxes.
"I've asked three times for a vote in the House of Representative. I've gone to the Rules Committee," he says. But, Van Hollen says, each of his requests have been turned down. "I'm not asking people to vote for it, or against it, although I think it's a lot better way to deal with the deficit than the sequester. But what I'm asking for right now is to simply have a vote."
The disputes over federal spending center around taxes. The President and Democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens, along with targeted spending cuts. Republicans say they're opposed to tax increases, and only want budget cuts to deal with the deficit.
The cuts in the sequester were considered so onerous that no one would want them, and Congress would try to come with something different. But that didn't happen.
Now that sequestration has begun, Van Hollen predicts it will have a devastating affect on the economy. "Some people still think that this is not going to have a major impact, even though the independent,non-partisan, Congressional Budget Office says that if the sequester remains in affect throughout the calendar year, we will have 750,000 fewer American jobs," he says.
In addition, he says it will hurt federal workers trying do their jobs. "You can imagine if you don't have as many air traffic controllers on the job, that leads to all kinds of problems at airports," Van Hollen says. "If you have fewer meat inspectors, that means a harder time to get the meat to the supermarket."
Congressman Van Hollen was in Frederick County on Friday afternoon to take part in Read-Across-America. He read to a class of fourth graders at Thurmont Elementary School.