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McDonnell calls on Congress, Obama to fix looming defense cuts

Gov. Bob McDonnell is urging Congress to act immediately to head off cuts in defense spending that could cost more than 200,000 jobs in Virginia.

On Tuesday, a new study by Richmond economic analysis firm Chmura Economics and Analytics and George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller showed that Virginia could lose thousands of defense and contracting jobs if “sequestration” happens. The study was done for the Aerospace Industries Association.

It indicates Virginia could lose more than 200,000 jobs and several billion dollars in labor income from the defense cuts, second only to losses in California.

Sequestration refers to automatic spending cuts that will kick in if Congress doesn’t pass spending cuts itself.

It was part of an agreement last year among Congressional leaders, who couldn’t agree on how to cut the deficit and cut spending and deal with the debt ceiling, but even the lawmakers who crafted it didn’t expect sequestration cuts to actually happen.

Now, however, those potential cuts are looming, including $55 billion from the military starting in January.

Speaking to reporters after an event in Stafford on Wednesday, McDonnell said, he’s “very concerned” about the impact sequestration could have on Virginia.

Photo by Dave Ellis

He planned to meet later Wednesday with Virginia’s congressional delegation, although the Washington Post is reporting that Virginia’s Democratic congressmen are boycotting the meeting because McDonnell scheduled a Republican press conference afterward with House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Henrico) and other Republicans, at which they’re expected to criticize President Barack Obama over the defense cuts.

The Democrats in Virginia’s congressional delegation put out a news release this afternoon confirming that they’ll skip the meeting with McDonnell because of the GOP press conference.

“Today’s approach to what has always been a bipartisan discussion simply is not the Virginia way,” the Democrats wrote. “Today’s delegation meeting was derailed by Republican efforts to apply a partisan spin to the discussion and to the issues that face us.   We reject this approach and find it to be contrary to Virginia’s long traditions in such matters.”

The Democrats — Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and Reps. Bobby Scott, Jim Moran and Gerald Connolly — said they “understand and take seriously the potential impact of sequestration on Virginia’s defense industry and overall economy,” and are “working hard to avoid spending reductions which would harm our national security.”

The House of Representatives also voted today to pass a bill that would force Obama’s administration to detail the projected cuts.

In Stafford, McDonnell said there is “no real plan on how (defense cuts were) going to be implemented” because “nobody really thought it would go into effect.”

That lack of planning, he said, is “completely irresponsible” and 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.”

He wants Obama to “exercise some leadership” and call Congress back into session to deal with the issue immediately.

“It’s not responsible to wait until the lame duck session,” McDonnell said. “Congress and the president have got to have the courage to fix this.”