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February 26, 2013

Obama travels to Virginia to warn of spending cuts

President Obama will travel to Newport News, Va. Tuesday afternoon to talk about the potential effects of spending cuts on the defense industry.

Obama will be joined by Reps. Bobby Scott, D, and Scott Rigell, R, at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, the largest manufacturing employer in Virginia. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will also be in attendance. HII’s supply base consists of 5,000 companies located in all 50 states, many of them small businesses, according to a White House official.

"That region, as everyone knows, will be particularly hard hit if the sequestration is allowed to take effect," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "And the president, as he has in the past, hopes with this event to highlight the impact of sequester; and by doing so, hopes that attention will be brought to bear on that problem and the need for Congress to act responsibly to avoid it."

In Virginia alone, Obama's administration has estimated that 90,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $648.4 million, if across-the-board cuts go into effect Friday. It could halt maintenance of 11 ships in Norfolk, defer four projects at Dahlgren, Oceana and Norfolk and delay other modernization and demolition projects.

The cuts – known inside the Beltway as sequestration – stem from a compromise between both parties to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011. Both sides agreed to allow the cuts if a committee failed to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Neither side thought the reductions would occur.

The first round of reductions -- postponed once from January -- is estimated to be $85 billion. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts agencies will reduce actual spending by about $44 billion, with the remaining cuts coming in future years.

The White House has spent months describing in specific detail what the cuts could mean in each state and each agency -- from Head Start programs to law enforcement officers. Republicans complained Monday that Obama appeared more interested in holding campaign-style rallies than meeting with  awmakers to solve the problem.

“Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problem," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. 

“The president ought to stop campaigning and come back to the table and work with us,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., added.

Carney defended Obama's trip.

"We’ve spoken a lot in recent weeks and months about the approach the president takes with these issues, and he believes it’s important and continues to do it to work with and sit down with and talk with members of Congress in the hope of reaching a compromise on issues like this," he said. "But he also believes that it is essential, and it is part of his responsibility, as president elected by the whole nation, to take these issues out into the country, to present his agenda and his priorities to regular folks out there in states across the country."

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