Virginia politicians have long considered themselves above the partisan fray that often plagues Washington, but on Wednesday they, too, were caught up in the scorching political storm now brewing in the critical swing state.
The annual bipartisan meeting of Virginia's congressional delegation on Capitol Hill was canceled after Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that he, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Virginia Republicans would hold a press conference right after the meeting that was expected to bash President Obama over $600 billion in looming defense cuts.
Democrats announced they were boycotting the meeting after learning of the planned press conference. In a joint statement, Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Reps. Gerry Connolly, Jim Moran and Bobby Scott accused Republicans of falling victim to Washington politics.
"For decades, the Virginia congressional delegation has had a tradition of productive, bipartisan meetings with a long line of recent governors, Republican and Democrat," the Democrats said. "At these meetings and thereafter, partisan politics always took a backseat to our combined efforts to move Virginia forward. Today's delegation meeting was derailed by Republican efforts to apply a partisan spin to the discussion and to the issues that face us."
Virginia is one of the most important battlegrounds this election, and many have said Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney can't win without it.
The pending defense cuts, which would kick in automatically unless Republicans and Democrats can agree on a spending plan, are likely to hit Virginia hard. Between defense contractors in Northern Virginia, military bases and a massive shipyard in Hampton Roads and a large population of veterans, the state could take a significant hit if the cuts go through.
Democrats noted that Cantor and many other Republicans voted in favor of the bill that included the automatic cuts, including defense cuts.
In the face of criticism, Republicans canceled their press conference without comment. However, Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., ripped into Obama after Congress voted to require the president to outline how military cuts will impact national defense.
"Our national security, our men and women in uniform and our local economy face unacceptable risk because of these potential defense cuts," Rigell said. "But the president -- our commander in chief SEmD has been silent on the issue."