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POLITICS: White House

Governors warn budget cuts would 'wipe out' D.C.-area jobs

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Photo - In this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, photo, provided by CBS News, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, left, and Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland speak on CBS's "Face the Nation" in Washington. McDonnell joined with O'Malley to call for Congress to prevent impending defense cuts that would hit their states hard. (AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)
In this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, photo, provided by CBS News, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, left, and Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland speak on CBS's "Face the Nation" in Washington. McDonnell joined with O'Malley to call for Congress to prevent impending defense cuts that would hit their states hard. (AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)
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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell joined together Sunday to warn federal officials that the $85 billion in looming across-the-board budget cuts will wreak economic havoc on the Washington region.

The rival Potomac governors, who spent recent months trading jabs over taxes, job creation and presidential politics, made a rare bipartisan appeal to avert the so-called sequester set to kick in Friday and which now appears inevitable, at least for the short term.

"Sequester stands to wipe out a lot of hard-fought job gains in Virginia and in Maryland," O'Malley, a Democrat, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "So whatever our differences may be, we understand that this is an economic threat. This is going to hurt a lot of moms and dads in our region."

McDonnell, a Republican, criticized President Obama for "overplaying his hand to force people to raise taxes." But he also cautioned that the automatic spending cuts would have a far greater impact on military-dependent Virginia than any other state.

"You have to cut but don't put 50 percent of the cuts on defense," McDonnell said on the same show.

Unless Congress and the White House strike a deficit-reduction deal that would replace the indiscriminate sequester cuts, $85 billion in cuts would take effect this year. Ultimately, $1.2 trillion would be cut over the next decade.

Republicans accused Obama of exaggerating the immediate impact of the spending cuts, saying the president's focus on cutbacks for cops, firefighters and popular programs is a political ploy meant to gin up public fears. Now the White House is looking to leverage the apprehension of Washington-area politicians to force a last-minute deal.

The White House on Sunday released a report showing that Maryland would see about 46,000 civilian Defense Department employees furloughed and a few hundred teachers put "at risk."

In the District, 13,000 Defense Department civilian employees would be furloughed, the White House said.

Roughly 90,000 civilian Defense Department employees would be furloughed in Virginia, Army base operations there would be cut by $146 million and maintenance canceled for nearly a dozen Navy ships, the report says.

Obama on Tuesday will visit a shipyard in Newport News, Va., where Navy aircraft carriers and submarines are constructed, in hopes of swaying Republican lawmakers wary of the Pentagon cuts. Ahead of that visit, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on Sunday focused on the military cuts and heaped praise on McDonnell, hoping to present a bipartisan front.

"There's no reason this has to happen," Kaine said on "Face the Nation." "There's no reason we should be playing this kind of brinkmanship."

Rather than moving closer to a solution, however, the White House and Congress continued to exchange blame for the impasse, focusing instead on which side proposed having automatic budget cuts in the first place. Polling shows the public is largely apathetic about the looming cuts, dismissing the episode as another Washington-manufactured controversy that will have little impact on their daily lives.

Both McDonnell and O'Malley looked to puncture that image in their respective states.

McDonnell said the sequester was intended to be a "hammer, not a policy." And O'Malley called the compromise chock-full of "job-killing cuts."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner