Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) told a Bethesda audience on Tuesday he still believes Congress will find a way to avoid automatic across-the-board budget cuts looming at the end of the year.

Federal sequestration was the predominant topic of discussion among the business and professional leaders of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary Club, which invited the five-term congressman and ranking member on the House Budget Committee to its weekly meeting at the Kenwood Golf & Country Club.

Sequestration would mean $110 billion in federal cuts to defense and domestic programs a year for the next 10 years and, according to one report, the loss of 12,600 federal jobs in Maryland. It could also start a chain reaction that would hurt local federal contractors and negatively affect the still sluggish economy.

Van Hollen reiterated his stance that reducing the deficit will take a mixed approach of cutting spending and raising revenue by keeping Clinton-era tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year when the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012.

The leading Democratic congressman, who recently portrayed Budget Committee foe Paul Ryan in Vice President Joe Biden’s debate prep, said he expects a historically busy lame duck session of Congress to address sequestration after the Nov. 6 election.

Of course, Van Hollen has an election of his own to win. But with few expecting Republican challenger Ken Timmerman to come close, even in a reconfigured 8th Congressional District, the question of Van Hollen’s reelection didn’t come up on Tuesday.


Timmerman, as well as the Libertarian and Green candidates for the 8th District seat, were invited to speak at the Rotary Club.

Van Hollen touched on a few local issues, including federally funded road and transportation improvements at and around NIH and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

He also said he hopes to focus on critical infrastructure issues in the next year, including finding federal money for transportation projects such as the Purple Line, while maintaining access to the Capital Crescent Trail that runs along it.