Kaine already calling on Congress to avoid 'fiscal cliff'

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Photo - U.S. Senator-elect Tim Kaine (Getty Images)
U.S. Senator-elect Tim Kaine (Getty Images)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Democrat Tim Kaine wasted little time putting his newly minted "senator-elect" title to use.

Kaine, the victor Tuesday night in Virginia's hotly contested U.S. Senate race, pushed Congress on Wednesday to find a solution that would avoid the "fiscal cliff" coming at the end of the year, when the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts will go into affect.

"There is a huge opportunity that has to be seized in Congress between now and the end of the year to find a path forward so that we can avoid some of the catastrophic consequences," Kaine said.

As an incoming freshman, Kaine has no say in how the lame-duck Congress deals with these issues, but he urged a bipartisan compromise anyway. On the campaign trail, he called for those earning more than $500,000 a year to pay more in taxes and for the elimination of federal subsidies to oil companies.

"Compromise" is a word Virginians will hear from Kaine a lot, he promised.

"The key for us in public office is to read the message from the electorate," Kaine said. "They want cooperative government. They are telling us over and over and over again they want us to work together."

Kaine won 52.3 percent of the vote in unofficial returns, defeating Republican George Allen in a clash of two former governors that attracted national attention, set a record for spending on a Senate race and remained neck-and-neck into the final days.

Allen won more counties than Kaine, but Kaine offset that advantage in the more heavily populated Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas. In Fairfax County, where one in seven Virginia voters live, Kaine won nearly 61 percent of the vote, exceeding even President Obama's 2008 performance there, unofficial returns show. Kaine also won some counties that voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, including Chesapeake, Westmoreland and Montgomery.

Kaine said he will work with Republicans on Capitol Hill to increase spending on big-ticket items like transportation infrastructure, a huge issue in Northern Virginia. He'll have a willing partner in Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., though it's not clear for how long. Warner is said to be mulling a run for a second term as governor, an office he held from 2002 to 2006.

Kaine said he isn't sure he wants to see Warner going back to a state office, even if it's the governor's office.

"I really want Mark to stay in the Senate," Kaine said. "I think Mark is doing some really important work with that bridge building."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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