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Defense cuts become focus of Va. senate race

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Photo - Former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, center, gestures as former U.S. Sen. George Allen, right, and moderator Candy Crowley, left, listen during Saturday's debate. Defense cuts have become a major issue in the campaign. (AP photo)
Former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, center, gestures as former U.S. Sen. George Allen, right, and moderator Candy Crowley, left, listen during Saturday's debate. Defense cuts have become a major issue in the campaign. (AP photo)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Critics of Democrat Tim Kaine blasted the former governor Monday for repeating his support during a U.S. senate race debate for a deal that will trigger massive federal defense cuts.

But Democrats shot back that Kaine's rival in the state's senate race, Republican George Allen, backed budgets that are now pushing the country toward a fiscal cliff.

During Saturday's debate, Kaine said last summer's deal to raise the debt ceiling "was the right thing to do," though he added that Congress should find a way to avoid more than $500 million in military cuts over the next decade. But Republicans focused solely on Kaine's support of the initial agreement, noting Allen was against it from the start.

"Rather than repudiating the current approach, Mr. Kaine chose not only to support it but, in effect, double down on it," Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said. "That's a stark contrast to Gov. Allen."

Democrats shot back that Republicans are ignoring the fact that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., voted for the plan, and Gov. Bob McDonnell voiced support of it.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said it was Republicans who forced Democrats to tie a vote to raise the debt ceiling to deficit reduction, and then backed away from the negotiating table when Democrats insisted on a balance of cuts and tax increases.

Allen, who Democrats noted was in the Senate when Congress turned a surplus into a deficit, said Saturday that he would not back a plan of $10 in cuts for every $1 in new revenue.

"George Allen saying even if it were 10-to-1 he wouldn't consider [new] revenue is part of the problem," Connolly said.

The cuts to the Pentagon, which go into effect in January -- after the fall election -- will continue to be a focus in the fight to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb. Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area, two key swing districts in the fall election, are heavily dependent on the federal defense budget for their economies.

A report released last week by George Mason University showed Virginia would lose 207,000 jobs, one-tenth of the nationwide total, if the cuts go through, the second most in the country behind California. The state economy would also shrink by nearly $21 billion over the next two years.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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