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D.C. gridlock to hit shipyard workers hard

KITTERY, Maine -- They don't care which side caused Washington's latest stalemate.

The men and women of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are worrying about paying rent, searching for new jobs and caring for sick loved ones.

Almost the entire workforce, a community of more than 5,000 along the Maine and New Hampshire seacoast, faces a loss equal to a month's pay because of the budget deadlock.

Orsom "Butch" Huntley, 63, a shipyard employee for three decades, lives paycheck to paycheck while caring for his terminally ill wife.

"Congress doesn't look at the individual. They just look at the bottom line. And it just really makes it tough to think we're just a number to them," Huntley, a computer engineer, said in a restaurant outside the shipyard gate. "It's going to be totally devastating."

Across the table from Huntley, facilities engineer Kevin Do explains that he and his wife -- also a shipyard employee -- have already delayed plans to buy their first home because of uncertainty created by Washington. With a 4-year-old son in day care, he's now looking for part-time construction work to help pay the bills, even if it means working seven days a week.

"We basically put the American dream on hold," Do said.

Navy officials have plans to force mandatory furloughs on roughly 186,000 civilian employees across the country. People like Huntley and Do would lose 22 paid days between April and October, or roughly 20 percent of their pay. Shipyards coast to coast have outlined cost-cutting plans to delay huge maintenance contracts on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

A Pew/USA Today poll this week found 49 percent of Americans would blame Republicans in Congress if there was no deal, 31 percent would blame President Barack Obama, 11 percent would blame both of them and 8 percent were unsure.

The political stakes matter little to Huntley. "Both sides put us here," he said.

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