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Speak Out: Should Congress Forgo Recess to Prevent Sequestration?

Protesters gathered to rally against sequestration, which would cut $500 billion in defense spending

With a looming $500 billion in defense cuts that could cost Northern Virginia thousands of jobs, Democrats and Republicans joined together at a rally in Arlington on Monday to encourage the Congress to come to an agreement that would prevent sequestration.

Sequestration is the name given to $1 trillion federal budget cuts that will happen in January if Congress does not reach a compromise. Half of that would affect the defense industry, which some estimates say could cost Virginia more than 207,000 jobs.

About 250 people, many employed by defense contractors with major presences in Northern Virginia, attended the Stop Sequestration rally Monday at the Crystal Gateway Marriott.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) called on Congress on Monday to cancel its upcoming five-week recess to work on a solution that would prevent the scheduled defense cuts.

That sentiment was echoed by Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce President Jim Corcoran, who said the federal government should not balance its budget on the backs of the defense industry. 

Speakers at the rally used words like "devastating," "extremely destructive" and "insanity" to describe the looming cuts, which were put in place by the Super Committee formed with the task of developing a congressional budget compromise, which has not yet been reached.

"It was never meant to be a policy. It was a Sword of Damocles to hang over everyone's head. It was never expected to happen," Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said.

"We need to stop it now. Not after the election. Not hoping something happens during a lame-duck session. Men and women in both parties need to come together. We need to create certainty and security."

Several speakers took the time to point out the other half of sequestration, $500 billion in cuts that could affect everything from air traffic controllers to Head Start.

John Jumper, a former Air Force chief of staff and current chief executive of McLean-based Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, said affected contractors hire a substantial number of veterans each year. Many of the companies that would be hurt by the cuts research everything from a cure for cancer to new technology to locate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th District) told the crowd he expected the defense cuts would not happen. He said the problem was Democrats who refused to budge on entitlement reforms and Republicans who refused to allow the government to raise new revenue. He praised Wolf, McDonnell and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham for their bipartisan efforts.

"People should expect more from their Congress, that the art of politics should always be the art of compromise," Moran said.

But, he said, people who care about this issue need to stay involved long after it is settled. The country needs a healthier, more educated electorate if it is going to prosper, he said.

"You're all smarter than the average American. Trust me. In too many parts of the country, people are being dumbed down and fattened up," Moran said.

Tell us: Should Congress forgo its five-week recess to prevent sequestration?

David Johnson July 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Expensive props at this rally. Who paid for them? Lucky for the contractors that they could take a few hours of non-billable time to attend! A lot of money in lost revenue in that room. "U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) called on Congress on Monday to cancel its upcoming five-week recess to work on a solution that would prevent the scheduled defense cuts." I am sure Connolly's colleagues in Congress would gladly give up five weeks of campaign time, less than 100 days before the election, in order to address a problem of their own making. Maybe Gerry could lead by example and vow to stay in his office every day working on this issue during the recess. Unless these are just empty words to gain votes.
BDogg July 31, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Mostly true about Connolly, just empty words. However your flip comments about the defense workers are sad. I find it ironic that this nation screams that we don't build anything anymore and all of our high tech jobs are going overseas. Yet the last industry that actually builds something from scratch, driving innovation, and putting well educated well trained people to work is so demonized. Very sad.
Andrew Eves July 31, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Congress needs to take a lead and do the job. The recess coming up needs to be at a minimum postponed. Postponed work on getting the budget work done and signed by the President. The President needs to remain in Washington set up retreats or summitts to get this taken care of. If the President wants to be reelected prove to be worthy.
Tim Parker August 01, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Yes, Congress needs to stay here and work on a budget. If these guys in Congress ever had to get a regular job, it would probably kill them.

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