Both of Virginia’s U.S. senators are on a congressional conference committee that will try to reconcile differences between Senate and House budgets and avert another federal government shutdown. On the eve of the conference committee’s first meeting, Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine are calling for compromise rather than confrontation.
“You’re hearing from Tim and I that we’ve got to get this job done,” said Warner, who joined Kaine on a conference call with reporters this afternoon. “It’s going to mean both sides are going to have to give a little bit.”
Warner said Virginia and the country can’t afford a repeat of the brinksmanship that shut down the government earlier this month and had the country facing a possible default.
“We did a lot of harm to our economy and to our national and international standing with the actions of the shutdown and the potential threat of default,” Warner said. “First and foremost, we need to make sure we get a budget for this fiscal year and we don’t threaten the kind of irrational actions that we saw take place earlier this month.”
Warner and Kaine, both former governors, said they are hoping for a deal that replaces automatic “sequestration” cuts, which took effect earlier this year, with more targeted spending reductions and additional tax revenue. Virginia could be disproportionately hurt by sequestration because half of the cuts — about $600 billion over 10 years — will come from defense programs.
Warner said he and Kaine need to convince their colleagues “of some of the stupidity of the sequestration cuts.”
“I think we in Virginia are more like ground zero in terms of the harm being felt,” Warner said. “There are smarter ways to cut spending. There are smarter ways to get a balanced approach that deals with revenues and entitlement reforms.”
“At the end of the day, we kind of know the parameters of this,” said Warner, who has long advocated for a “grand bargain” to put the country on sound financial footing. “If we’re not going to keep coming back to cutting defense, and if we’re not going to keep coming back to cutting education, it’s going to mean Republicans are going to have to give on revenues and Democrats are going to have to give on entitlement reform.”
With Congress mired in gridlock and its approval ratings in the tank, the public may have low expectations that conferees can reach a deal by mid-December. But Kaine said he is upbeat heading into the negotiations.
“Expectations might be low based on past history, but I think I’m going into it with high hopes and a lot of enthusiasm,” Kaine said.