U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill

By Eli Yokley

— Missourians will face more than $1 billion in federal spending cuts over the next seven months if a set of automatic spending cuts is allowed to move forward.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the so-called “sequester” — signed by the president and approved with bipartisan support in Congress last year as part of a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — will likely go into effect, but the pain could be quelled.

“I still think it is possible that we will change the impact of these cuts so they will look to somebody that is studying the numbers like it makes more sense,” McCaskill said.

In Missouri, the White House Office of Management and Budget predicts the cuts could most seriously impact the state’s large military footprint. Just this year, Army and Air Force base operations would face nearly $70 million in cuts under the proposal, and nearly 8,000 civilian employees would face a furlough to save $40.3 million.

“Cutting out maintenance and operations in the military is really dumb,” she said. “I’m hopeful we can achieve less overall spending in a much more thoughtful way.”

The White House said some $20 billion in funding for the state’s schools and services for children with disabilities are also at risk.

McCaskill said she and other lawmakers have been in talks with President Barack Obama about ways to not only quell the pain for the rest of this budget year, but in the coming budget years as another nearly $1 trillion in cuts loom over the next decade.

Republicans, including Sen. Roy Blunt, have remained opposed to repealing the sequester in part because of demands by Democrats to keep tax increases as part of the debate. Earlier in the year, as part of a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax increases on all earners, Republicans agreed to a modest increase on the upper tax bracket.

Blunt launched a campaign last week calling on Senate Democrats to vote for a budget, noting that the last time they passed a budget resolution, the iPad had not yet been invented. McCaskill said on all of the budget and appropriations issues that she hopes “we can get enough people to come to the middle and deal with the compromise.”