- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2012

Republicans blasted President Obama Friday for campaigning in Virginia near the largest U.S. naval base while ignoring their proposed solution to avoid looming defense cuts.

The top four Republican leaders in the House and Senate wrote a letter to Mr. Obama Friday accusing the White House of “holding our troops and other important programs hostage in order to foist tax increases on small businesses, which have been routinely rejected by the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis.”

They urged Mr. Obama to stop “ignoring the need to address this critical issue,” and to work with lawmakers to avoid the deep cuts that would automatically take effect if the White House and Congress fail to strike a longer-term budget deal. The letter was signed by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Mr. Obama campaigned in Virginia Beach and Hampton Friday, near the U.S. naval base in Norfolk, before visiting Roanoke in the southwest part of the battleground state. He’s seeking to shore up support in a state he won four years ago, ending decades of victories by GOP presidential candidates.

At his first campaign stop, at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach, the president called for Congress to extend middle-class tax cuts and urged supporters not to get turned off by a deluge of negative campaign advertising.

“We are seeing more money spent than any time in American history, a lot of undisclosed, coming from folks who can write $10 million checks,” said Mr. Obama, whose campaign has been outraised by Mr. Romney in each of the past two months. “Almost all of the ads are negative. There’s so much negativity and so much cynicism. It’s understandable that at a certain point people say, you know what — there’s a disconnect here. This is not speaking to me.’”

“I just want to remind everybody that in 2008, there were a lot of folks who didn’t believe, either, in the possibilities of change,” he said.

When the president reminded the crowd that this campaign will be his last, some in the crowd shouted “No!”

“There’s a term-limit thing in the presidency,” Mr. Obama said, chuckling. “This isn’t like Congress — I can’t just keep on running.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One that Republicans are to blame for the budget impasse that threatens deep cuts in defense and other programs.

“The reason we’re in this situation,” she said, is that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republicans are focused on cutting taxes for “millionaires and billionaires.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday said the problem is Republicans’ opposition to tax increases.

“The across-the-board cuts were objectionable and onerous to both sides for a reason,” Mr. Carney said. “That’s why Congress has to act.”

Virginia’s economy is heavily reliant on military spending and could be affected by automatic spending cuts authorized by Congress and signed by the president last year.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is hosting a National Governors Association meeting this weekend in Williamsburg, accused Mr. Obama of having compiled “a dismal record” on the economy.

“It seems like about at every turn the policies of this president on energy, on jobs, on defense, on taxes are hurting our ability … to getting [Virginians] more access to the American Dream,” Mr. McDonnell told reporters at an event for Mr. Romney.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, campaigning Thursday in Virginia Beach on behalf of Mr. Romney, told veterans that Mr. Obama would wreck the region’s economy through defense spending cuts in a second term.

“He has your region of the country right in his crosshairs,” Mr. Giuliani said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. “He can do more damage to you than he does to most of the rest of America if we should make the mistake of re-electing him because the cuts he has in mind for our military are devastating.”

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has warned against the military spending cuts. The president has called for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and during this two-day tour of Virginia he is pushing for tax hikes on families earning more than $250,000 per year.

Mr. Boehner’s office said that the House voted in May to replace the “devastating cuts with common-sense spending cuts and reforms … reducing the deficit by an additional $242.8 billion beyond the Budget Control Act while protecting our troops and our national security.”

“But the president and Senate Democrats have rejected the solutions in the House bill, and the Obama administration refuses to respond to requests from Congress on how it plans to implement the military cuts, and how specific federal programs and activities would be affected,” Mr. Boehner’s office said.

On Saturday, Mr. Obama will campaign in Richmond.

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