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Analysis: Pressure Builds On Capitol Hill To Avoid Defense Spending Cuts

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David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

On Capitol Hill, pressure is mounting to avoid looming defense spending cuts—the penalty for Congress failing to reach a deal on the debt ceiling last year.

David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Breifing talks with Matt McCleskey, host for WAMU's Morning Edition about how the cuts could effect defense contractors nationwide, especially contractors in Virginia.

On where this standoff is headed: "The standoff is almost certainly headed past the election and into what we've been calling the mother of all lame-duck sessions," says Hawkings. "If those defense contractors are starting to send layoff notices out before the election, that will maybe raise the pressure on them to get it done earlier in Congress, but it really doesn't look like it. It looks instead as though both sides will be making this a big campaign issue, and then will come back right after the election and probably paper things over into the new year."

Virginia could be deeply affected by defense cuts, it is also a crucial state for the election. On how Democrats will take on this risk: "By some accounting, defense spending counts for about 17 percent  of the GDP in Virginia. It is the huge industry in Virginia, and it's obviously the huge federal presence in Virginia. It's a big risk for the president," says Hawkings. "The president says we can come up with that  money instead by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year. This is why the president is not going to let go of this sequester threat before the election, because he thinks this it is his best way of making his point that we need to raise taxes instead."

The fate of a House bill to force President Obama to explain how the $109 billion cuts for the Pentagon and non-defense spending would be implemented: "That bill is probably going to pass. The Senate has already taken a similar vote, who think that the best way to raise the drama on this, to drive the point home with the electorate and to really understand it themselves, is to have a detailed understanding from the president about what the program-by-program effects would be for these across the board cuts," says Hawkings. "It does, however, look unlikely that given how slowly the legislative gears move in Congress, that although the Senate has taken a similar vote, that the House and Senate would actually agree on something, send it to the president's desk, get his signature on it, and then get this report back by the start of the fiscal year."

Listen to the full interview here. 

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