That will translate into delays in product approval, meaning companies will be hampered from bringing new medical devices to the market and patients will be denied timely access to new products, Sommer said.
Federal agencies expect to furlough up to 1 million employees for intermittent periods as a result of the budget cuts. At least 750,000 of those will be civilian Pentagon workers, 7,000 of whom hail from Massachusetts, according to the White House. Furlough notices have begun arriving, giving federal employees 30 days’ notice to prepare for reduced pay. The Department of Justice has notified some US attorneys of up to 14 days of unpaid leave through September.
“We recognize the difficult personal financial implications of any furlough, no matter how limited its length,” one letter said. “Should additional furlough days become necessary, you will receive another employee notice.”
Jonathan Kreisberg, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said all 60 workers in his New England region’s Boston and Hartford offices received furlough letters. But the effect of the furloughs — as many as 22 work days through September — is still unknown, as officials at the national level have not decided how to implement them.
Jeff Frankel, a professor of capital formation and growth at the Harvard Kennedy School, said the sequester doesn’t even deal with one of the major elements of the budget. The sensible thing to do, he said, is to cut the costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, combined with smaller measures to raise tax revenues, requiring Democrats and Republicans to compromise.
But “every politician, Republican and Democrat, is afraid to come out and make specific proposals to cut Medicare and Social Security,” Frankel said. “That is what we should do, solve the long-term problem, and then we could cancel sequestration and not have to cut discretionary spending at all.”
Obama said yesterday he would be willing to challenge members of his party who don’t want to touch entitlements.
“I’m prepared to take on the problem where it exists on entitlements and do some things that my own party really doesn’t like if it’s part of a package of sensible deficit reduction,” Obama said.
The White House and Congress are now focused on the next potential Capitol Hill crisis: March 27, when the federal government is slated to run out of cash. The turnaround will leave members of Congress with little time to catch their breath, but Boehner said House Republicans are set to move ahead next week on a plan to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.
Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said she is hoping that the parties can compromise in the days ahead.
“To govern is to choose,” Pelosi said. “Certainly, we don’t want a shutdown of government.”