The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Automatic cuts could slash jobs
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
Gov. Bob McDonnell wants Congress to act immediately to head off potential cuts in defense spending that could cost more than 200,000 jobs in Virginia.
The looming cuts, part of a process called “sequestration,” are a hot topic in Washington this week. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring the Obama administration to specify how the cuts would be done.
Sequestration refers to automatic spending cuts that will kick in if Congress itself doesn’t approve spending cuts.
It was part of a bipartisan agreement last year among congressional leaders, who couldn’t agree on how to cut the deficit and spending and deal with the debt ceiling. But even the lawmakers who crafted it didn’t expect sequestration to actually happen.
As it now stands, sequestration would require $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years, including $500 billion from the military. Under the House bill, President Barack Obama must have a plan by Jan. 2 to start making those cuts.
The bill passed Wednesday by the House—with only two votes against it—gives the administration 30 days to lay out how it would make the cuts.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R–Henrico, said the potential cuts will hurt “important domestic priorities such as education, medical research and law enforcement,” and threaten national security and cause hefty job losses.
“While today’s vote is a step in the right direction, the real goal remains reaching a bipartisan solution to replace these cuts with other common-sense savings,” Cantor said in a press release Wednesday in which he also pushed Senate Democrats and Obama to work on a deal to prevent the cuts.
In May, the House passed another bill laying out its spending-cut proposals.
As was the case when the sequestration provision was put in place last year, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are fighting about whether additional revenues should be part of a debt- and deficit-reduction package.
On Tuesday, a new study by the economic analysis firm Chmura Economics and Analytics of Richmond and George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller showed sequestration could cost Virginia more than 200,000 defense and contracting jobs and several billion dollars in labor income from the defense cuts, second only to losses in California. The study was done for the Aerospace Industries Association.
Speaking to reporters after an event in Stafford County on Wednesday, McDonnell said he’s “very concerned” about the impact sequestration could have on Virginia. He said there is no plan on how defense cuts would be implemented, and that has left defense contractors unclear on whether they need to notify workers of possible work stoppages.
His message, McDonnell said, is to “stop the irresponsible approach to spending cuts.”
McDonnell had been scheduled to meet later Wednesday with Virginia’s congressional delegation, and then hold a news conference with Cantor and other Republicans in the delegation to talk about the defense cuts. But the Democrats in the delegation said they were skipping the meeting because of the GOP-only news conference.
In a release, the Democrats said the McDonnell meeting was “derailed by Republican efforts to apply a partisan spin to the discussion and to the issues that face us.”
The Democrats—Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and Reps. Bobby Scott, Jim Moran and Gerald Connolly—said they understand the possible impact of sequestration and are “working hard to avoid spending reductions which would harm our national security.”
Although McDonnell cancelled the Republican press conference, Democrats still did not attend the meeting. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor was “extremely disappointed” and called the Democrats’ decision “an unfortunate display of petty politics.”
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028