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In first Senate speech, Kaine says Congress should follow example of Va. deal

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Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) delivered his maiden floor speech Wednesday, warning his colleagues of the dangers of looming budget cuts and suggesting Congress could follow the dealmaking example just set by Virginia’s General Assembly.

Kaine’s address was a rite of passage for every freshman senator but, as he referenced several times, the circumstances were less than ideal; Kaine took to the floor just two days before the sequester is due to hit, triggering automatic reductions in defense and domestic spending.

“A normal first speech for a senator is a proactive, forward-looking speech,” Kaine said. “We are not in normal times. ... The effects that this sequester will have on the country and the effects that it will have on my commonwealth are so significant and severe that I do feel compelled to speak a little earlier than I otherwise might have.”

Having recently completed a tour of defense installations around the state, Kaine recounted the complaints he heard at every stop from soldiers and civilian personnel about the toll budget cuts would take on them and their families. And, he said, Virginians view the current impasse as a symptom of broader congressional dysfunction.

“For as many people as don’t like the current president, no one says to me that the presidency as an institution is broken. … No one says to me that they think the judiciary is broken,” Kaine said, but people do “worry whether we’re broken” in Congress.

For inspiration, Kaine suggested, Congress should look south to Richmond, where Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) and legislators from both parties in the General Assembly approved a landmark transportation deal this weekend, agreeing to restructure the gas tax and raise a variety of other taxes to pay for roads.

“This is what happened 90 miles from here just a few days ago in order to benefit the economy,” Kaine said, urging Republicans in Washington to make the same choice Republicans in Richmond did.

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