Former governor Timothy M. Kaine predicted this week that President Obama and Congress would ultimately agree on a short-term deal to raise the debt limit, as he criticized Republicans and his likely GOP opponent, former senator George Allen, for their stance on the issue.
Kaine (D) and Allen are running neck-and-neck in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) and, as in other races across the country, the debate over raising the debt ceiling has moved front-and-center.
In an interview, Kaine said he thought the final agreement should include “spending cuts in all areas – defense, non-defense discretionary, and the social entitlement programs. You’ve got to look at more revenues and also, I think, make continuing investments in transportation and education to promote growth. … I think you’ve got to have it all on the table.”
That echoes the position taken consistently by Obama, who has pursued a “grand bargain” that would cover a broad combination of spending cuts, tax increases and reforms. Republicans have mostly preferred to focus more narrowly on spending cuts..
Kaine also expressed optimism that a deal would get done eventually, as “the economically catastrophic consequences [of default] will eventually convince enough people to raise the debt ceiling. … I think we have to do it.” Kaine added that any politician willing to default “shouldn’t be in office.”
But Kaine differs from Obama somewhat in one respect. The president has so far adamantly refused to entertain the idea of a shorter debt-ceiling extension that would require another vote next year. On Wednesday, Obama reportedly ended a White House meeting in frustration that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) kept mentioning the possibility of a short-term deal.
Despite Obama’s opposition, Kaine predicted that such a short-term fix was a real possibility.
“I think it’s more likely to be shorter but I applaud the president and the speaker for continuing to try to do something bigger,” Kaine said.
Allen, for his part, has signaled his position on the discussions by signing the “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge that calls for “substantial” spending cuts, enforceable caps on spending and passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Asked his position on the balanced budget amendment, Kaine said: “I’m for balanced budgets and I could even entertain a balanced-budget amendment, but the one that’s on the table right now, once you get past the title, it’s a bad thing.” He noted that the amendment being pushed by Republicans includes triggers for spending cuts and supermajority vote requirements to raise taxes.
Kaine suggested Allen’s current stance reeked of hypocrisy.
“His record is he’s a big spender,” Kaine said of Allen. “He may say he’s a small-government guy when he’s on the campaign trail, but he’s never been when he’s been in office.”
Democrats note that Allen voted for tax cuts and spending bills when he was in the Senate that significantly boosted the deficit. Allen also voted multiple times to raise the debt ceiling without any strings attached, and opposed a Democratic push to institute “pay as you go” budget rules. (Many Republicans opposed those rules because they require offsetting spending cuts for tax cuts as well as spending increases.)
Allen’s campaign said Kaine was severely distorting the Republican’s record.
“That’s kind of stunning to say that he’s never been a small-government person in office,” said Allen campaign spokesman Bill Riggs. “Both in Richmond and in Washington, he was a small-government conservative.”
Riggs noted that as governor, Allen promoted welfare reform and reduced the public sector payroll. As senator, Allen got consistently high ratings from groups such as the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform.
And Allen pointed out that Kaine proposed significant tax increases when he was governor, and supported Obama’s big stimulus plan and other spending proposals as Democratic National Committee chairman.