Va. senator to House: Don't be resigned to the sequester

Sen. Timothy Kaine, D-Va. Sen. Timothy Kaine, D-Va. Steve Helber/AP

Freshman Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on Monday told an audience of defense contractors that he plans to push a new batch of planned budget cuts and postpone for six weeks the across-the-board cuts slated to kick in March 1 under sequestration.

“It troubles me when I read about people who are resigned to the sequester occurring,” Kaine said at a gathering in Arlington, Va., hosted by the contractor Dynamis. “Most of the pessimism I’m reading is coming from folks on the House side. Some who want it to happen and some who don’t want it to happen but are worried that it will.”

Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is conducting a “listening tour” of Virginia focusing on its 200,000 defense-related jobs currently at risk. He vowed to explore ways to align the thinking between the House and Senate to avert sequestration, perhaps with a few budget cuts and legislation to give Congress until mid-April to do a broader deal.

“Tough decisions are best made as part of an ordinary budget process rather than a one-off sequester that no one ever thought was a good idea,” he said. “Why would we want to do that at the same time we’re about to be engaging in an orderly budget process?

The contractors, according to an account in AOL’s Patch, told Kaine the threat of sequestration was already “paralyzing” their industry, leaving them clamoring for Congress to move and create some certainty around which they could plan. Companies are delaying orders and freezing hiring. They said the lack of certainty “is causing Wall Street to invest more in companies that don't do business with the government,” wrote reporter Jason Spencer.

Dynamis President John Braun reported that his company had just learned on Monday that a contract planned for renewal for more than 12 months would instead be renewed for only two.

"We've been sequestered already," said John Hillen, president of Sotera Defense in Herndon, Va. "If you think about the downstream impacts, it's happened already."

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group, told the group that with many in Congress targeting federal employees for cuts in pay and benefits, contractors could feel the heat next, according to the Patch.

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