Virginia is set to hurl over a "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1 if lawmakers in Washington cannot come up with a deal before then to stop nearly $500 billion in cuts in military spending put in place by last summer's deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
A recent study sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that in the worst case scenario the commonwealth could lose more than 207,000 jobs including more than 136,000 defense-related jobs due to the results of the debt-ceiling deal known as sequestration. The study says the automatic cuts designed to rein in a roughly $1.2 trillion federal deficit and a national debt that just topped $16 trillion could plunge the state into a decade-long deep recession.
The sequestration cuts would come on top of $487 billion in budget cuts to the military worked out this year between President
No one expects a deal to stave-off sequestration — which cuts roughly $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years — to be reached until after the Nov. 6 election.
As Virginians prepare to head to the polls to cast their ballots for president, a new U.S. senator and local members of Congress, the parties have drawn lines in the sand over the issue.
Obama has said he will veto any plan to stop sequestration that does not include revenue increases in addition to spending cuts. As part of attempts to control the debt and deficit the president is pushing Congress to let the President
Republican presidential nominee
Both parties lay the blame for the impending, arbitrary cuts on the other side.
The Romney campaign and its surrogates blame Obama for the debt deal saying the president put forth the proposal passed last summer. The Romney campaign began airing a television ad in Virginia Friday that refers to sequestration as "(Obama's) defense cuts."
However the proposal was spearheaded by House Majority Leader
Jesse Richman, professor of political science at Old Dominion University, and Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at
"Both sides have blood on their hands, or mud on their faces, on this one," Kidd said. "Sequestration is not solely the president's doing or the Democrats' doing. Nor is it solely the Republicans' doing or Congress' doing. It was an agreement."
Richman said the sequestration deal was designed to force both Republicans and Democrats to put things "they hold dear" on the table in the hopes a congressional super committee created last fall would come up with a comprehensive plan to avoid the arbitrary cuts.
For Republicans that included military spending; for Democrats it included social-safety net programs like
Richman said the super committee was designed to fail as both parties packed it with lawmakers who were ideologically entrenched.
Kidd and Richman said both parties are waiting for the outcome of the elections to see which way the political wind is blowing before they make compromises in a lame-duck session.
Both are optimistic the results will bolster the power base of one party or the other enough to set the stage for a deal to avoid the sequestration cuts, which they said neither party wants.
House Republicans have passed a plan authored by Ryan that does keep the sequestration cuts from going into effect at the beginning of the year.
Ryan's Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act does not make any cuts to the military or raise taxes. Instead it makes deep cuts to social-safety net programs such as
The plan defunds the
Republicans point out they are the only ones who have put a plan on paper that has passed a chamber of Congress. They criticize the Democrat-controlled Senate for not taking up their plan and offering an alternative — which would move the process forward — and Obama for not taking the lead and putting his own plan forward.
As chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Forbes said now that the House has passed a plan to avoid sequestration it is "ridiculous" that Senate refuses to take it up. He also criticized Obama as commander-in-chief for not putting a plan forward to stop drastic cuts to the military.
Dems want more revenue
Richman said there is no incentive for the Democrats in the Senate to take up a plan that gives them no concessions whatsoever.
Ella Ward, Forbes' opponent in the 4th District, said while Republicans decry the threat to military spending, they "have chosen tax cuts for the rich over stopping automatic sequestration cuts."
Kidd said Obama has made his position clear — that he wants Congress to work out the details on a balanced proposal that includes both revenue and cuts.
Obama did sign a measure into law that requires him to put forth a detailed proposal of how he will implement the sequestration cuts should they go through and a plan to avoid the cuts scheduled to take effect in January.
The deadline for Obama to deliver those plans to Congress passed Thursday with no action from the president.
U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News, said letting the Bush tax cuts expire for people making over $250,000 alone would bring in enough revenue — roughly $1 trillion — to cancel the sequester and protect military spending in Hampton Roads.
Dean Longo, Scott's opponent in the state's 3rd District, said Congress should just vote to cancel sequestration altogether and work together moving forward to make responsible cuts and generate new revenue by expanding the tax base through tax credits to encourage small business growth.
Longo, along with U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov.
Kaine and Longo also call for scaling back
As voters head to the polls, Richman said, they should vote for candidates they feel will be most likely to compromise and work across the aisle moving forward in order to break the ideological intransigence in the current Congress.
Kidd said voters would be better served to decide whether they agree more with the Democrats' or Republicans' overall vision for the economy and vote a straight-party ticket accordingly.
This, Kidd said, could give the lame-duck Congress a clearer direction and the winning side a stronger hand on how to avert taking Virginia and the nation as a whole over the "fiscal cliff."
Campaign messages on sequestration
President Barack Obama Virginia state spokeswoman Marianne von Nordeck:
"President Obama has made it clear that he is strongly opposed to sequestration going into effect. That's why he has called on Congress to take action to prevent these cuts from happening. The president presented a balanced and fair deficit reduction plan that includes both entitlement and revenue savings, avoids the massive defense cuts in sequestration, and reduces our deficit by $4 trillion, only to be rebuffed repeatedly by Republicans who refuse to ask the wealthiest to pay a single penny more. The same Republicans who walked away from negotiations and voted to put the sequester in place now try to place sole blame on President Obama for it, even as they obstruct efforts to prevent sequestration and reduce our deficit."
Republican National Committee Victory Campaign Virginia spokesman Michael Short:
"At a time of rising threats and when we still have men and women in the field, (the sequestration cuts) are irresponsible and an unprecedented action by a commander in chief. Mitt Romney believes that we achieve a strong America by investing in our military and ensuring it is so powerful that no one would ever think of challenging it. As president, he will reverse Obama-era defense spending cuts and work to ensure the 21st Century is an American Century, in which our country is the best ally world peace has ever known."
"From the beginning George Allen opposed last year's debt deal because of the devastating cuts to our defense that would put Virginia jobs and our military in harm's way. He believes leadership is about setting priorities and the top responsibility of our government is national defense, including providing our veterans with the benefits they have earned. George Allen will work with both parties in Washington to reverse these defense cuts and ensure that our country keeps our promises to our veterans."
Tim Kaine spokeswoman Lily Adams:
"Governor Kaine is the only candidate in this race to lay out a plan to avoid harmful sequestration cuts while responsibly reducing the deficit. Instead of an all-cuts approach that would harm the economy of Hampton Roads and Virginia, Tim Kaine has advocated an approach that would make strategic cuts but also find savings by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making over $500,000 and repealing subsidies to profitable major oil companies who don't need taxpayer dollars. Governor Kaine's balanced approach would not only avoid indiscriminate sequestration defense cuts, but it would also yield additional funding for priorities like education and infrastructure that grow our economy, and for benefits that have been promised to our service members, veterans and their families."
"Our military already shouldered much of the burden of recent budget cuts; additional cuts would devastate our national security and effects will ripple across Virginia. Government must be lean and efficient, but we simply cannot ask our troops to do more with less as we confront vast global challenges. Earlier this year, I voted for a plan to avoid these looming cuts in 2013, while saving budget dollars making programs more efficient. Veterans' benefits were not a part of these discussions, and I support efforts to ensure our veterans continue to receive the benefits they have earned and deserve."
Democrat Adam Cook:
"I believe that avoiding the looming cuts to our defense budget should be the number one
responsibility of Congress over the next four months. I applaud the efforts of some Republicans and
Democrats to find a balanced alternative to these risky and unjustified cuts. Unfortunately, too many
members are willing to let bad things happen to the country, so long as they can find a way to blame
the other side. We can and should be looking to eliminate waste from the Pentagon
budget, such as the purchase of thousands of tanks
need to be made with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. We must also ask the wealthiest Americans,
who are currently paying among the lowest rates in modern American history, to pay a little more to
offset these cuts and move our budget to balance. I will not put the desires of millionaires over the
needs of our military and veterans. Instead, any package to avoid these cuts must be based on three
principles: economic growth, elimination of waste, and additional revenue."
"We have a deep obligation to pass on to future generations of Americans the blessings of liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, our military and national security are at risk because of the defense cuts that will affect each and every American unless Washington can agree on a plan to stop them. My amendment, which passed the House this summer, will stop sequestration for the coming fiscal year if Congress passes a reconciliation bill or other legislation that offsets the cuts over five years. There is still sufficient time for us to come together and do what is right: find the common ground to counter these defense cuts with other federal savings. We can, and we must, do the hard work necessary to stop these cuts from hurting our country."
Democrat Paul Hirschbiel:
"Our military community in Hampton Roads is a great asset to our region and one that we must work every day to protect. I do not support increased fees or cuts to benefits for TRICARE recipients, or efforts to privatize the Veterans Administration. Furthermore, Congress should be working right now to reverse the disastrous defense cuts that they put in place. I believe the best way to avoid these cuts is by putting together a plan that takes a balanced, bi-partisan approach."
U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott:
"Everyone agrees that sequestration, both defense and non-defense, would inflict significant harm to the Hampton Roads economy and our national security. In order to cancel the sequester, Congress must find $1 trillion in deficit reduction but it must do so responsibly. Benefits for our service members and veterans should not be considered. My plan would be to prioritize canceling the sequester over extending the Bush-era tax cuts. Allowing the tax cuts for that portion of income above $250,000 to expire as currently scheduled would yield approximately $1 trillion in new revenue – enough to offset the sequester. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the House has decided to focus on extending $4 trillion in tax cuts first instead of addressing the sequester.""
Republican Dean Longo:
"Make no mistake, the sequester is simply bad policy. We cannot eliminate the debt simply by randomly cutting programs; there's too much debt and not enough programs. The sequester does cut the budget, but it does tremendous damage in the process. Real debt reduction also does not occur by holding the district hostage to the sequester. It happens by simultaneously growing the economy, making surgical cuts to redundant and obsolete programs, and investing in less expensive, more efficient technologies. Even if no one provides a satisfactory alternative, if we let the sequester go into effect, Hampton Roads will make Detroit look like Beverly Hills."
U.S. Rep J. Randy Forbes:
"Since the Budget Control Act went into law, I have made it a mission to raise awareness and prevent the devastating effects of sequestration. Sequestration refers to the Budget Control Act's mechanism that is scheduled to cut $500 billion in defense spending, in addition to the $487 billion that has already been triggered over the next 10 years. I voted against these cuts then, just as I am fighting them now.
"The magnitude of defense sequestration cuts are clear: The smallest ground force since 1940; the smallest Navy since 1915; the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force; future military veterans and retirees could have their retirement pay significantly delayed and/or reduced; a weakened defense manufacturing base; 2.1 million jobs lost, including over 207,000 in Virginia alone."
Democratic Chesapeake City Councilwoman Ella P. Ward: