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Virginia GOP attack on Kaine ricochets

6 on Hill backed defense sequester

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The Virginia Republican Party lambasted Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine on Monday for backing a congressional deal that’s led to the specter of $500 billion in defense cuts starting next year — despite a majority of the state’s Republican lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, having voted for the plan.

In the first general-election debate with Republican George Allen, Mr. Kaine called last year’s deal to increase the country’s debt ceiling "the right thing to do."

But according to an analysis released last week, more than 207,000 jobs in the state could be on the line, absent action from Congress. Thirty percent of Northern Virginia’s government-rich economy relies on defense-spending contracts, and the southeastern Hampton Roads area is home to numerous military bases.

"There is no more important economic issue facing Virginia today," Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said of the looming cuts.

"Senator Allen has been very clear that he does not favor the sequestered budget cuts."

Part of the deal Congress passed to raise the debt ceiling last August and trim government spending by $1 trillion also created a 12-member supercommittee tasked with finding an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. The group failed to agree on a plan, however, triggering about $500 million in defense cuts and $500 million in cuts to domestic programs over the next 10 years unless Congress acts before next year.

"Mr. Kaine doubled down on his support for sequestration," Mr. Bolling said. "He was given every chance to back off it, and he didn’t. I can only interpret that as meaning that he agrees with Democrats in Washington that he would rather see the country go off a fiscal cliff than get this thing right."

But the original plan was backed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and received bipartisan support from Virginia’s congressional delegation: Six of the delegation’s eight Republicans voted for it.

The lone dissenters were Rep. J. Randy Forbes, who represents the Hampton Roads region, and Rep. Morgan Griffith, who cited the absence of a hard balanced-budget amendment as a reason for his opposition.

Mr. Kaine’s campaign said the Republican charges were way off-base.

"As Gov. Kaine has said before, these sequestration cuts are the wrong cuts, and Congress must reach a bipartisan deal to avoid them," said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine. "George Allen opposed last year’s deal because he wanted even deeper cuts, and now his campaign is attempting to use the threat of 200,000 Virginia jobs lost to score political points."

Mr. Allen’s campaign, however, disputed the notion that he opposed the deal because he wanted more cuts. It pointed to the statement the former governor and U.S. senator issued last August citing the fact that the agreement had no concrete balanced-budget amendment and risked significant cuts to defense spending, the safety of U.S. troops and the loss of Virginia jobs.

Meanwhile, Gary E. Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee for president this year, told The Washington Times it was silly for either side to try to claim the moral high ground on the issue.

"Of the $16 trillion debt that we have, $7.5 trillion of that is Republican administrations, and $8.5 million of that is Democrats," he said, laughing. "So can you really put a finger on who’s responsible? No, you really can’t."

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