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McDonnell, Allen rip automatic cuts

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Introducing Senate candidate George Allen and Gov. Bob McDonnell to a group of government contractors in Spotsylvania on Tuesday, state Sen. Bryce Reeves asked the crowd how many of them had watched Monday night’s presidential debate.

Most hands went up.

He then asked how many believed President Barack Obama’s assertion in the debate that sequestration cuts “will not happen.”

All hands went down.

Sequestration—the package of steep federal spending cuts, about half to defense, that will take effect in January unless Congress takes action—is a big deal to government contractors, who made up the bulk of the audience at Tuesday’s town-hall meeting at defense contractor SimVentions. The cuts could affect thousands of contracting jobs in Virginia.

It’s also a big deal in Allen’s Senate race against Democrat Tim Kaine.

Allen opposed the sequestration deal last year, while Kaine supported it, although Kaine says he doesn’t want the cuts to actually take place. That hasn’t stopped Allen from running ads linking Kaine to potential defense job losses.

It’s an issue that has come up in all of the last three debates between the two candidates—as well as in a debate between Rep. Rob Wittman, R–1st District, who was at Tuesday’s meeting, and his opponent, Democrat Adam Cook.

Sequestration and defense cuts are a big issue in the campaigns in part because talking about sequestration leads to other critical issues, such as how to reduce the federal debt and deficit and whether tax cuts or increases are appropriate.

Kaine favors eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts on those making more than $500,000 as part of a plan to avoid the sequestration cuts and reduce the debt; Allen says, as he did Tuesday, that Kaine’s only solution is to raise taxes, something he opposes.

He told the group at SimVentions that sequestration “sloughed off responsibility” and was a “failure of leadership.”

Allen and McDonnell said they think reductions to defense spending would weaken America’s military. Asked about the attacks in Libya that killed the American ambassador, Allen said they show the dangers of sequestration and defense budget cuts.

McDonnell supported the sequestration deal when it passed with bipartisan votes last year. But, he said at SimVentions, the deal “was supposed to have been a hammer, not a policy.”

It was meant to threaten lawmakers into negotiating a more palatable way to reduce the federal debt. That hasn’t happened.

McDonnell put blame for the potential cuts on Obama, who he said has “really refused to lead” on the sequestration issue. The president, he said, “has been a bystander” as the cuts loom closer.

McDonnell said voters need to change course on Election Day in two weeks to avert the cuts.

“We’re a nation that has got deep problems,” McDonnell said. “The only way you address them is you’ve got to have new leadership.”

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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