Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Sequester Fuels GOP Campaign Rhetoric

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (second from left) is touring with Sen. Mark Warner (center), who has been working to devise a deficit reduction deal to stop automatic budget cuts from taking effect. Both men visited a robotics firm in Fredericksburg, Va., on Monday.

Calls to avert automatic spending cuts from both sides of the aisle have gone unheeded for nearly a year, and it might be that the stalemate is proving to be too good of a campaign issue to waste.

Even as GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) have toured the country, arguing for a pre-emptive deal to avert what even the Obama administration has said would be "devastating" cuts to military and nonmilitary programs, Republicans on the campaign trail seem content to leave the issue to the post-election lame-duck session.

In Connecticut, where Pentagon spending is the gasoline in the state's economic engine, GOP Senate nominee Linda McMahon has criticized her opponent, Rep. Christopher Murphy, on sequestration.

McMahon released a radio spot last week calling Murphy a career politician.

"Because Congress didn't do its job and eliminate wasteful spending, automatic budget cuts now threaten 35,000 defense jobs here in Connecticut," McMahon says in the ad. "Good jobs at Electric Boat, Sikorsky and Pratt & Whitney are endangered. And Congressman Chris Murphy actually supports even more across-the-board defense cuts."

The Murphy campaign pushed back quickly, noting that he actually opposed last year's debt limit deal that set up the sequester. Those automatic cuts were triggered by the failure of the now-defunct super committee to come up with alternative cuts.

"The truth is that Chris Murphy voted against defense sequestration and is fighting for a balanced and bipartisan plan to save local defense jobs. Linda McMahon, however, is so focused on preserving her $7 million tax cut that she stands with Republicans holding any deal hostage to protect tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Taylor Lavender, a Murphy spokeswoman, said in a statement in response.

Murphy seems to be on the offensive on the tax issue, joining most Democrats in supporting the expiration of the top George W. Bush-era tax rates. The issues are certain to surface again at an October debate in New London, which neighbors a Naval submarine base.

Meanwhile in Virginia, former Govs. George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D) are dedicating a lot of their time on the campaign trail to visiting defense facilities, and Kaine has been hitting Allen over his opposition to the underlying debt limit agreement.

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