Weekends with Alex Witt | March 23, 2013
>>> the day. a critical move by congress this week to delay furlough notices for hundreds of thousands of pentagon civilian employees. the house passed a bill thursday to extend funding for workers facing sequestration cuts. the measure gives the pentagon time to decide on how best to make those cuts. and joining me now is democratic congressman william enhart. thank you so much for being here, sir. i do appreciate that for this early hour.
>> good morning, alex.
>> i want to ask you about this whole situation. put it into context for us. how much of an impact does this delay have across the country?
>> well, you know, i think the good thing here is that we've given the department of defense flexibility to move around the cuts, and to move funds from one account to another account. so it's going to help a bit. i've spoken out against sequester on the house floor. and i think that it is not the proper way to approach our fiscal situation. i think that what we need to do instead of just cutting across the board is to cut into the fat and not the muscle and bone and that concerns me a great deal.
>> so i could imagine why it does because i want to talk specifically. scott air force base , that's in your district, and i'm sure when you're voting against the sequester you're thinking about that because it now faces big cuts under the sequester. 4500 of the approximately 5,000 civilian workers are expecting furloughs there on that base. and if you look at what scott contributes to the local economy , $2.3 billion. so, the effect of the furloughs, as a result of sequestration, how do you expect that to play out?
>> well, i can tell you that it's impacting my friends, my neighbors, it's impacting families throughout southern illinois . you're looking at people giving up 20% of their pay, and that's going to have a profound impact on the local economy . you know, those people who aren't getting a full week's pay for a full week's work won't be buying new cars. they certainly won't be buying new houses. and they won't be going down and getting that widescreen tv, or maybe going out to eat.
>> and so, that's going to have a ripple effect throughout the economy. i'd like to point out, too, it's not just scott air force base . you know, we have federal prisons , and -- who are facing furloughs. that's a profound impact not only on the economy but also on the safety of those other prison employees. we have the shawnee national forest , the largest national forest in illinois, very significant impact.
>> yeah. well --
>> we're losing three air control towers .
>> it's, it's, it's being felt as you're very aptly saying across so many areas and that means that your constituents are feeling it and they must not be very happy. the st. patrick's day parade incident, i know you were, you were marching part of that parade. but what did you hear from them?
>> well, you know, i had several people stop me and ask me about sequester. the people are concerned about it. and they asked me to vote against it. as i -- as i did. and as i will continue to do. sequester is -- is a mindless exercise. we need to do this with thinking it through and approaching it with a plan. you know, in the military when we had a problem we sat together as a staff. we worked out a solution to it. and then we worked together. and there might be disagreements, but you figured out the best way to approach a problem and then you dealt with it. sequester does not do that.
>> but, you know, here's something that's interesting, and call me cynical, but i have to say it was pretty surprising to see congress avoid a government shutdown that was set for march 27th . i mean it didn't even go down to the wire. we always talk about, oh, you're at the 11 1/2 hour. so what went right this time?
>> i can tell you as part of the freshman class, we've come to congress, i believe, with the intent of getting something done. and of working together. and working across the aisle. that's what i've done, that's what i did during my career for 35 years. i had to testify before the legislature, and i had to work with both republican legislators, and democratic legislators, and my intent was to get a job done, whether it was working on natural disasters , or preparedness or deploying the largest single deployment since world war ii to afghanistan. when you've got a problem, you sit down, you figure out the best solution and you work towards it. and that's what i intend to do in congress.
>> okay. we're going to hold you to it. in the meantime, we thank you for