The partisan finger-pointing over looming defense spending cuts has made its way into Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, where Republican George Allen is using the issue in his latest television ad. The spot asserts that Allen is the “only candidate” who would fight to protect Virginia jobs that could be lost if the cuts occur.
The two candidates sparred over this issue Saturday in their debate at The Homestead in Hot Springs. Allen said he was dismayed by the prospect of automatic defense spending cuts that could occur in January if Congress fails to pass an alternative deficit-reduction plan. The defense cuts would represent about half of the automatic cuts that would be mandated under the 2011 deal to raise the federal debt limit, a bipartisan compromise that Allen opposed and Kaine supported. Kaine said he also opposes the defense cuts and has called on Congress to find a compromise to avert them.
Kaine’s campaign points out that Gov. Bob McDonnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Henrico County, backed last summer’s debt limit compromise, which ended a protracted partisan impasse that had pushed the federal government to the brink of default.
The automatic defense cuts are in play because a congressional “supercommittee” that was created under the Budget Control Act failed to come up with a long-term deficit reduction plan, largely because of a partisan dispute over taxes.
Allen opposes any deficit-reduction solution that includes tax increases. Kaine said he favors a comprehensive deficit-reduction approach that would include spending cuts and ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts on incomes greater than $500,000.
“George Allen is the only candidate in this race with the leadership to fight against these defense cuts that will devastate our military, jobs and families,” said Allen campaign manager Mike Thomas . “While Tim Kaine says ‘the deal was the right thing to do,’ George Allen believes national defense and Virginia jobs should never be used as a bargaining tool to raise taxes. George Allen has a proven record of working with both parties to solve problems and achieve historic reforms, and that’s the kind leadership George Allen will bring to Washington.”
Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said Allen helped create the fiscal mess by supporting deficit spending and increased borrowing during his previous term in the Senate, which ended after Allen’s 2006 election loss to Democrat Jim Webb.
“Let’s be clear how we got here. As a U.S. senator, George Allen took a record budget surplus and turned it into a massive deficit, voted for trillions in new spending, and voted four times to raise the debt ceiling without cutting a dime in spending. He helped create the crisis and now, instead of joining a bipartisan effort to fix it, he’s cheering on gridlock and opposing compromise. Just this past weekend, George Allen rejected a deal of ten dollars in cuts to a dollar in new revenue — a position so extreme that even leaders in his own party refuse to support his stance. Allen’s approach would slash spending on key programs, including defense, that are vital to Virginia’s economy and Virginia workers.”
A Democratic super-PAC also is on the air with an ad designed to draw contrasts between Kaine and Allen on spending. The ad notes that Kaine cut spending and balanced the budget when he was governor without noting that the state constitution requires a balanced budget. And the ad singles out a few obscure congressional earmarks that were embedded in congressional spending bills during Allen’s Senate term to portray the Republican as a “big spender.
Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis said: “It’s a telling act of desperation for Tim Kaine and his allies to pat him on the back for complying with the Virginia constitution requiring a balanced budget. Virginians know that Tim Kaine chose to spend his last year as Governor traveling the country, giving speeches and raising money to champion Democrats’ failed policies that have added $5 Trillion to the national debt. No amount of cherry-picking information can change the fact that Tim Kaine has sided with Washington on every significant failed economic policy while George Allen continues calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment and line item veto authority to fight wasteful spending.”
– Michael Sluss