Virginia Republican Reps. Rob Wittman and Scott Taylor flew to Newport News on Air Force One Thursday with President Trump to watch him give a speech at the company that builds the nation’s aircraft carriers.
For Wittman, head of a subcommittee in charge of the expanding Navy fleet, and Taylor, a freshman and former Navy SEAL focused on national security, the trip dovetailed with their interests.
But Rep. Bobby Scott (D), one of the most senior members of the Virginia congressional delegation whose district Trump visited, was not invited to the event. Traditionally, presidential visits to a region include invitations to the local delegation, regardless of party.
Trump touted his plans for a major hike in military spending, echoing the themes of his Tuesday night speech to a joint session of Congress, and decried the size and age of the Navy fleet as insufficient.
He spoke from the deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford — the Navy’s newest nuclear-powered warship, which has run billions of dollars over budget and taken years longer to build than anticipated.
Scott said he welcomed Trump’s call for increased shipbuilding, but worried about how he intends to pay for it and urged the administration to provide concrete proposals.
“So far, all I’ve heard is that he intends to cut taxes, raise defense spending, and propose draconian cuts to non-defense discretionary spending,” Scott said in a statement after the speech. “That means deep cuts to programs that support education, rebuild our infrastructure, ensure clean air and water, and protect workplace safety and public health. “
Wittman, a five-term congressman who chairs the Armed Services subcommittee that oversees seapower wants the Navy fleet to expand from 274 to 350 ships — a goal Trump endorsed on the campaign trail.
“With the Navy today having been used very hard based on these recent conflicts, we want to make sure we get the construction part right and the maintenance part right,” he said in a brief interview.
Taylor sits on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees military construction and veterans affairs.
“Obviously Newport News Shipbuilding is huge for my region and for the national security apparatus,” he said. “It’s important for me to support my area and make sure we have predictability for the industrial base and skilled workforce.”
Taylor joined Trump last month at the Dover Air Force Base where family gathered to receive the casket carrying William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in the administration's first counterterrorism operation. Trump honored Owens’ widow in his address to Congress Tuesday night.
Newport News is part of the congressional district that is represented by Scott and which voted for Hillary Clinton in November. Wittman and Taylor represent neighboring districts that voted for Trump.
In 2013, then-congressman Scott Rigell, a Republican, joined Scott, the Democrat, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) and President Barack Obama for a visit highlighting the perils of across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, in Newport News.
And in 2009, Kaine, who was governor at the time, gave the opening remarks at the commissioning of the aircraft carrier Republican President George H.W. Bush, which was attended by then-President George W. Bush.
Phil Rucker and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.