He says furloughing employees & cutbacks on NCI research could result.
Sequestration could have some adverse impacts on Fort Detrick, according to 8th District Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who paid a visit to Frederick on Thursday.
Meeting with the County Commissioners, Van Hollen said the decision by Congress to severely slash federal spending to help reduce the deficit could lead to employees being furloughed. It will also affect the National Cancer Institute, which is located at Fort Detrick. "You're going to see fewer research grants, fewer research being conducted into trying to find cures and treatments into diseases that impact our armed forces, and also will impact American families," he says.
The National Institutes of Health could also be affected, according to Van Hollen.
Fort Detrick is Frederick County's largest employer. And if furloughs take place, Van Hollen predicts a ripple affect outside of the installation's gates. "People who are taking leave without pay for certain periods of time. Obviously, that's disruptive to operations at Fort Detrick. Obviously, it's disruptive to their families. It's also disruptive to the local economy because that means folks will have less income to go out and buy goods and services," Van Hollen says.
Congress approved sequestration in 2012 in hopes to coming up with a solution to help reduce the federal red ink. These cuts were so severe that it was expected the House and Senate would most certainly come up with something better. However, no other solution came forward and sequestration took affect earlier this year.
Van Hollen told the Commissioners he supports a balanced approach to dealing with the federal budget deficit, and that includes targeted cuts. He says he's introduced a proposal which would achieve the goal of erasing the red ink without deep spending cuts. "Unfortunately, I've not had a chance to get a vote on that in the House," he says. "I'm hopeful over the next three months, we'll be able to reach bipartisan agreement to replace the sequester."
But that won't be easy. "There are lot of folks out there cheering on the idea of the sequester and it's going to be hard to bring them to the negotiating table if they allow these across-the-board cuts to happen," he says.
While in Frederick, Van Hollen also had lunch with the Chamber of Commerce and took a tour of Fort Detrick.
He also spoke to reporters about gun control, as the Maryland General Assembly is set to approve legislation covering firearms. It would ban assault weapons, limit magazine sizes to ten bullets, and require those wanting handguns to undergo fingerprinting. "You got to deal with the mental health component, you've got to deal with strengthening security and you need common sense gun safety measures," he says.
Van Hollen says there's a bill in Congress which requires universal background checks for anyone who wants to buy a gun. "Before you purchase a gun, you should undergo a criminal background check to see if you've got a criminal history, or if you've determined to be mentally incompetent by a court of law," he says. "We don't guns in dangerous hands."
Many of these gun control measures were introduced following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December, 2012. On Thursday, that state's governor signed a package of bills into law, giving Connecticut one of the strongest gun control laws in the US.
Van Hollen says a background check requirement does not interfere with citizens' Second Amendment rights. "No one's proposing that we come and take away people's guns, whether they're hunting rifles or whether they're guns for home protection. No one's proposing that," he says.
Van Hollen noted that polls show that even a majority of the National Rifle Association's membership supports universal background checks.