WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

GOP Senators Stop In Virginia To Decry Defense Cuts

Pentagon officials are facing significant cuts at the beginning of next year if automatic budget cuts agreed to in last year's deficit reduction agreement take effect.
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Pentagon officials are facing significant cuts at the beginning of next year if automatic budget cuts agreed to in last year's deficit reduction agreement take effect.

Former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a rumored vice presidential contender plan to stump in Virginia today to rally support against pending defense cuts, but Democrats say it's all politics.

Big spending cuts are scheduled to hit the Pentagon later this year because a bipartisan effort to cut the national debt failed. That could cripple Virginia's defense industry, so three Republican senators are coming to Norfolk, Va. to call for those cuts to be diverted to other parts of the budget. 

Along with McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is headed to Virginia for a town hall meeting on the potential defense cuts today. Ayotte is rumored to be on presidential candidate and former Governor Mitt Romney's short list of potential vice presidential picks. 

But Ayotte denies she and the others are on political trip. 

"Now I'm all for making sure that we reduce our debt and get our fiscal house in order," Ayotte says. "We can do this in a way of coming up with spending cuts that doesn't jeopardize our national security. So I'm for coming up with all the savings."

Meaning savings, and not additional revenues. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who represents many Pentagon employees and contractors, says the Republican defense hawks aren't seriously trying to solve the problem until they bring new revenues into the equation.

"This is just political, sadly, political posturing by three people who know better," Connolly says. "And what I think my voters and voters all across the country want to hear is:  What's the plan for resolving it?"

McCain, Ayotte and Graham are scheduled to end their tour in New Hampshire Tuesday after hitting the electorally important states of Florida and North Carolina.

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