With a little more than a week left, Congress must make a decision on the pending sequestration to avoid $85 billion in automatic cuts to discretionary spending. A lot of questions are being asked about what happens to New Jersey’s flood relief money if the country goes over the latest fiscal cliff. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) about the sequester and what it means for New Jersey.
Runyan says there’s still time to avoid the automatic cuts that are scheduled to take effect March 1, but laments the political nature of the debate which is preventing the parties from coming together. He takes particular aim at President Obama, saying “the president has a lot of discretion on what line items get cut and the ones that don’t.” Runyan adds that South Jersey may be especially impacted given that it is so “defense heavy.”
“Obviously [Obama] has come out early and obviously said veterans affairs is put aside, he’s said military affairs is put aside. He has the ability to do all of that stuff,” said Runyan. “It’s unfortunate that he’s out playing politics with it, trying to scare people.”
As for federal relief aid for Hurricane Sandy, Runyan recalls the frustration of the New Jersey and New York delegations in trying to get the legislation passed. On a positive note, he said it brought members of the New Jersey delegation closer together.
“The biggest thing is it made an opportunity to go out and have conversations you normally don’t have and really at the end of the day it’s about building relationships, having the confidence and respect, ask the questions when you’re in doubt. That really payed into it and it’s unfortunate that it takes a tragic situation like Sandy to do that sometimes. But I can tell you from our Jersey delegation, it’s a pretty tight group.”
Now that U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg has announced that he would not seek reelection, many are speculating about who will enter the race for his seat. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has already expressed his interest. Runyan, however, says he’s quite happy where he is.
“I’m gonna stay right here and I’m going to continue to fight for the people of the third district,” said Runyan.