Timothy M. Kaine reiterated his plan for dealing with impending defense cuts Monday, while returning fire against Republicans who have attacked Virginia’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate on the topic.
President Obama and Kaine — who faces fellow former governor George Allen (R) in the race to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D) — have been the focus of an incessant Republican barrage over the more than $50 billion in defense cuts scheduled to take place in January unless Congress takes action to avert them.
The campaign continues Monday, as Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) will speak at a “Stop Sequestration Rally” at 4 p.m. in Crystal City, while GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) will appear at a 5 p.m. town hall meeting on the defense cuts in Norfolk.
McDonnell and many of his fellow Republicans, including leaders in both the House and Senate, joined Kaine in supporting the 2011 spending deal that created the budget “supercommittee” and included the defense cuts. They have sought to pin the blame on Democrats by calling for the defense reductions, but not other scheduled government cuts, to be halted, while Allen has trumpeted the fact that he opposed the deal from the start.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Kaine sought to turn the tables, arguing that he has a realistic plan to deal with the broader deficit issue while Allen does not. And Kaine — the former Democratic National Committee chairman whom Republicans have tarred as a party-line ally of Obama — portrayed himself as a moderate willing to compromise to reach a deal.
“I think there’s been a lot of grandstanding around the impending defense cuts,” Kaine said, adding that “there are too many who are still sussing out the politics of this instead of finding solutions to the challenge.”
Kaine’s plan, which he has outlined before, would include a package of spending cuts — what he called “the right ones” rather than the indiscriminate cuts mandated by the sequestration process — as well as revenue increases, including allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on income over $500,000.
Kaine called his tax plan a “middle-ground position” that differed from that of Obama, who wants to end the tax cuts above $250,000, and Republicans, who want to extend all the cuts. And Kaine criticized both parties for staging “show votes” on plans that have little chance to become law, including the Senate vote last week on Obama’s plan.
Kaine also said his preferred approach to reducing the deficit would include “about three dollars in cuts to every dollar in revenue,” a stark contrast with Allen, who made clear in their July 21 debate that he would not accept a deal with a 10-to-1 ratio of cuts to tax increases.
Kaine did allow that a short-term fix to stop the defense cuts might make sense — but only later this year, after efforts to strike a broader deal have been exhausted. “Yeah, you might be talking about that in December, but it’s July,” he said.
Republicans have argued that the defense cuts must be blocked much sooner than the end of the year, in order to prevent contractors from having to issue layoff notices. A Pentagon official testified last week that Defense Department employees could get such notices just days before the November election.
“Tim Kaine can’t escape from the fact that he not only supported the Washington deal that disproportionately cuts defense, risking over 200,000 Virginia jobs, but just last week he called it ‘the right thing to do,’” said Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis. (Kaine said at the July 21 debate that the original spending deal was “the right thing to do,” but he has also criticized the planned defense cuts as poorly designed.)
Davis also called Kaine a “reflexive tax raiser” who “wants to use troop funding as a bargaining chip to raise taxes.”
Allen will continue his message effort on the Pentagon cuts issue Tuesday, when he plans to tour and speak with employees at the Chantilly headquarters of defense contractor First Line Technology.