BY WESLEY P. HESTER
The battle continues following Saturday’s U.S. Senate debate between former governors George Allen and Timothy M. Kaine, with Republicans and Democrats sparring Monday over the issue of defense cuts.
The Republican Party of Virginia held a conference call Monday morning echoing Allen’s attacks on Kaine for supporting last year’s bipartisan debt deal, which has left the U.S. facing the possibility of steep defense spending cuts and the possibility of 200,000 jobs lost in Virginia.
“It is fair to say that these sequestered budget cuts could undo every bit of the progress we’ve made in Virginia over the last two-and-a-half years,” said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
The looming cuts, which are set to take effect at the end of the year, are part of a sequestration triggered by the failure of a so-called super-committee created as part of the deal and tasked with finding alternative deficit reductions.
Bolling referenced Kaine’s comment at the debate that the debt deal “was the right thing to do,” and painted a gloomy picture of the impact the cuts could have on the state’s economy and military readiness.
“He in essence doubled down on his support of sequestration,” Bolling said. “I can only interpret that as meaning that he shares the view of Democrats in Washington that he would rather see the nation go off a fiscal cliff than get this issue right.”
Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said that was a mischaracterization of Kaine’s position.
“As Governor Kaine has said before, these sequestration cuts are the wrong cuts and congress must reach a bipartisan deal to avoid them,” she said.
Asked about the broad Republican support for the debt deal when it was passed, Bolling responded: “I think the important thing is this is not a deal that George Allen ever supported.
He also noted that House Republicans voted in May to override the Pentagon cuts and replace them with spending reductions to food stamp and other social programs, but the bill gained no traction in the U.S. Senate.
Democrats hit back with a conference call of their own, noting that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, and Gov. Bob McDonnell had both voiced support for the debt deal and blaming Republicans for creating the problem.
“To try to somehow make sequestration a partisan issue is a monstrous exercise in craven political cynicism,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th, noting that Republicans had insisted on the deal as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, which he called a “reckless and irresponsible act.”
The call also highlighted a moment in the debate when Allen said he would not support any tax increase, even if coupled with spending cuts of 10 times the amount of new revenue.
“Every reasonable person who studies this knows we have to have compromise,” said state Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax.
Connolly also blamed the GOP for the super-committee’s failure, claiming the deal unraveled because they would not entertain the idea of new tax revenue.
“Now they want to blame the president and the other party for something that was there creation and came out of a crisis they created,” he said.
Allen campaign spokeswoman Emily Davis shot back, saying Democrats were attempting to use “military cuts as a bargaining chip for the massive tax increases they want to enact.”
She added: “George Allen knows that raising taxes on anyone in this economy won’t create jobs.”