RICHMOND – As Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell urges Congress and the White House to compromise over increasing the nation’s borrowing limit to avoid the first ever default on federal debt, he’s taking fire from the GOP right.
Two Republican candidates currying favor among conservatives and tea party voters in August’s hotly contested state Senate primaries attacked the governor Wednesday for urging give-and-take among Washington Democrats and Republicans.
Press statements came from Claudia Tucker, a General Assembly lobbyist and Amherst Board of Supervisors chairman seeking an open seat in a five-way primary, and Tito Munoz, a Colombian immigrant running against ousted state GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick.
Both are similar in style, tone and content, accusing Mr. McDonnell of willingness to accept tax increases for remarks he made Tuesday in blasting both parties for an inability to resolve the debt limit issue. The matter threatens a global economic jolt if it’s not resolved by Aug. 2.
“I share Gov. McDonnell’s exasperation with Washington’s inaction and its potential effect on Virginia’s bond rating, however on some issues there should be no compromise,” Ms. Tucker wrote in her press release.
“I frankly feel that Gov. McDonnell’s willingness to bless a retreat that includes tax hikes and an increase in the debt ceiling is just wrong,” wrote Ms. Tucker, once the top aide to former House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins.
Mr. Munoz similarly said there should be no “compromise or retreat from solid, conservative principles.”
“Raising the debt ceiling is risky business in the first place, and doing so with coinciding tax increases is even worse,” he said.
Without a deal between the Republican-controlled House and Obama, the government will exhaust its ability to borrow money and pay its bills after Aug. 2, likely risking a push back into recession, causing interest rates to soar, endangering Social Security payments and staining the creditworthiness of the United States for the first time.
Frustrated at the U.S. government’s inability to pass a budget or manage its debt and news that Virginia’s perfect bond rating could be lowered along with that of the federal government, the popular conservative governor rebuked Congress and the White House alike at a Tuesday news conference.
He said his approach to reducing the debt would be through spending cuts, just as Virginia did in achieving a $311 million surplus in its 2011 budget. Mr. McDonnell never advocated tax increases, but acknowledged that neither side in the debt-limit dispute can totally have its way.
“Frankly, it has been both Republican and Democrat presidents and Congresses that have contributed to this mess. In fact every president since 1980, has contributed to an increase in the national debt except for Bill Clinton. Now the bills are due and if I was in charge I would cut spending dramatically,” he said after announcing Virginia had finished its 2011 budget year $311 million ahead of budgeted spending.
When pressed whether he would consider revenue increases such as ending some tax exemptions and deductions, Mr. McDonnell suggested reviewing whether breaks and incentives in federal tax law still serve a valid purpose.
“Evaluating exemptions and tax preferences … to see if they make economic sense – are they getting the value that was expected – yes, you ought to ask those questions,” he said.
“I think that may be some area for middle ground,” he added. “My preference would be spending cuts.”
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