Newsmaker Interview: McDonnell Targets Defense Spending, but Opposes Automatic Cuts
McLaughlin, Seth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Seth McLaughlin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says that defense spending must be reined in if Congress is serious about getting the nation's fiscal house in order but opposes the $500 billion in automatic defense cuts under last year's debt deal, warning they would weaken national security, kill jobs and devastate his state's defense industry.
Thought to be on the short list of potential vice-presidential picks for Republican standard-bearer Mitt Romney, Mr. McDonnell's willingness to place defense spending on the chopping block puts him at odds with the former Massachusetts governor, who has railed against President Obama's attempts to reduce the size of the Pentagon budget and vowed to beef it up.
In a meeting on Friday with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, Mr. McDonnell said he supported the debt deal that lawmakers hammered out last summer because it represented the lesser of multiple evils - noting the looming concerns over the potential downgrading of the nation's credit rating.
Republicans, he said, were optimistic that the supercommittee established through the deal would be able to forge a bipartisan deficit-cutting agreement. But it didn't, triggering $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts that will be split between defense and non-defense spending if Congress fails to find common ground before the end of the year. That does not bode well for Virginia, which is home to a high number of defense contractors and military bases.
Everyone had equal pressure on them to make a deal. Well, that's been 12 months now and we are two months away from hundreds of thousands of defense contractors sending out WARN notices, he said, alluding to Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, which gives employees a heads up on potential layoffs.
We are 5 1/2 months from having sequestration actually going into effect, which of course I think will have a very negative effect on national security and a particularly devastating effect on jobs in Virginia - particularly in Northern Virginia, in and around the Defense Department, he said.
Mr. McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, blamed the budget standoff on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, pointing to the Nevada Democrat's refusal to take up a House Republican bill that would replace the sequestration with a combination of savings in the food-stamp program, reductions in Medicaid spending, and ending funding for the implementation of the president's health care overhaul.
The question for Harry Reid is: 'Why won't you look at an alternative for effecting the $1.2 trillion in cuts?' - keeping in mind that $1.2 trillion is a drop in the bucket. That's not even one year of the deficit, he said, arguing that Congress must do all that is within its power to reduce the nation's annual deficits and soaring debt.
So, there is no question that defense is going to have to be cut. …