"I don't think there's much we'll be able to get accomplished this year," said Rep. Michael Capuano, speaking about the current state of Congress during a breakfast talk to the Somerville Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning.
With both parties in election mode, "I don't expect much significant to happen," he said.
Capuano, a former mayor of Somerville, spoke at Mount Vernon Restaurant in East Somerville.
He talked about transportation funding, the Green Line extension and the general climate in Washington.
Independents need to "pick a side"
Government gridlock and the seemingly growing divide between political parties are occurring because "so many people have walked away from the party system," Capuano said.
"When people walk away from the party system, they walk away from the primaries … [the] people who are a little more moderate, they tend to walk away," he said.
As a result, "You end up with zealots. That's what America has done," he said.
Capuano said independents need to "pick a side" or figure out a way to participate in the country's political activity, maybe by starting a third party.
"How can you complain about the outcomes when you don't participate?" he said.
Failure of "super committee" and automatic budget cuts
Capuano also spoke about the so-called "super committee" that was set up by the Budget Control Act of 2011 to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions—and that failed to reach an agreement by the November deadline.
The congressman said he knew the committee would fail when he saw who was appointed to it. "You cannot get something done if you send the wrong people to the table," he said.
As a result of the "super committee's" failure, automatic budget cuts will be triggered in a process called "sequestration."
Capuano said, "I actually think sequestration, unfortunately, is probably a good thing" because it will force the country to face the reality of budget cuts.
Sequestration calls for between 10 percent and 8.5 percent in budget cuts, every year from 2013 to 2121, in defense and discretionary spending. When Americans learn what programs will be cut, they won't be happy, Capuano predicted.
The process will "make America look at some of these things," he said.
Cuts in defense spending will hurt Massachusetts
As for cuts in defense spending, which are required by sequestration, "The first thing they're going to cut is research," Capuano said.
He added, "Massachusetts, by the way, gets more defense money for research than any [state] except California."
The process will lead to losses of private-sector jobs, he said.
Somerville Patch will post more about Capuano's talk, including his comments about the Green Line extension, soon.