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Allen, Kaine take stage in only Northern Virginia debate

More compromise and cooperation in Washington was the recurring theme Thursday in the second debate of 2012 between former Virginia governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, two well-known politicos now seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.

But aside from brief words of mutual professional respect, Allen and Kaine offered virtually no issues on which they find common ground. The two expressed contrasting philosophies on sequestration and the federal budget, health care and marriage equality.

Moderator David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” opened the debate with the hot media talk of the week: GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s comments that the 47 percent of the country that doesn’t pay a federal income tax believes they are “victims” and that government has the responsibility to care for them. With Romney being the standard-bearer of his party, Gregory asked Allen if he “shares that vision of America.”

“The best indicator of what somebody will do in the future is their record in the past,” Allen responded. “My view is the best social program of all is a job. If somebody has a job, they’re taking care of themselves and providing for their families.”

Allen went on to speak of his time as governor, from 1994-1998, saying he worked with a Democratic legislature to create of 300,000 net new jobs, cut taxes and reform the state’s welfare program.

Gregory pressed Allen on the Romney remarks, saying his opening question was “very specific.”

“I asked you pointedly, do you share that vision of America? And what specifically would you do to deal with that 47 percent?” the moderator repeated.

“As I stated in the beginning, David, the best social program of all is a job. How do you provide more job opportunities for people?” Allen said. “It’s by ...”

Gregory interrupted again, “do you think nearly half the country see themselves as victims?”

Finally, Allen said he “has his own point of view.”

“And my point of view is that people of America still believe in the American dream. And our responsibility as leaders, as public servants, is to make sure that this is a country where everyone has that equal opportunity to compete and succeed and pursue their dreams,” Allen said.

To the same question, Kaine said he “deeply disagrees” with the sentiment of Romney’s remarks. “I don’t meet Virginians that think they’re victims … The last thing we need to do at this moment is divide people one against each other.”

Kaine said he’d be “open to a proposal” for a minimum federal income tax; but relating his answer to the question on Romney’s statement, Kaine said many of those “47 percent” pay a higher tax rate than the presidential candidate does.

A couple hundred business and political professionals were on hand for the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event held at Capital One headquarters in McLean. Across-the-board federal budget cuts, or sequestration, was the prime Northern Virginia-specific issue. The cuts will disproportionately slice into Virginia’s economy, costing the commonwealth an estimated 200,000 defense industry jobs.

Allen reaffirmed his stance that he opposes the federal deficit deal that led to the looming sequestration cuts. The alternative, however—not striking a deal to begin reducing the federal deficit—was likely to lead to a major credit downgrade following the nation’s debt-ceiling debate.

In recent weeks, the Republican has repeatedly made claims that Kaine is holding members of the military “hostage” because of his support for the deal that led to sequestration.

Kaine responded to the charge by saying first that it isn’t true, he hasn’t used members of the military as political leverage, and second, it’s that kind of name-calling that’s turned D.C. toxic.

Speaking on the federal budget, Kaine, the former chairman of the Democratic National Chairman, said he wants to see the President George W. Bush tax cuts to expire on those making more than $500,000, alter Medicare by allowing more negotiation for prescription drug prices and eliminate tax subsidies from the “big five oil” companies.

“What you then end up with is not a trillion dollar problem, you end up with a $235 billion problem,” Kaine said. “Over 10 years, you can find that savings.”

While Allen was in the Senate from 2000-2006, he voted multiple times to raise the debt ceiling. Along the same lines of debt and deficit, Kaine said Allen’s “on more sides of this than a Rubik’s cube.”

Kaine harped on Allen’s Senate record during which he voted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were not accounted for in the general budget, and Bush’s tax cuts. Those actions were like inserting ticking time bombs in the budget, Kaine said.

Allen countered by challenging Kaine’s monetary policies, questioning whether Kaine’s plan – ending the Bush era tax cuts and eliminating “big oil” subsidies – has been carefully analyzed. Allen claimed thousands of jobs would be lost through the Democrat’s plan.

On President Obama’s health care law, Allen said the measure has led to less hiring, more uncertainty and an eventual tax increase.

“I do think it ought to be repealed and it ought to be replaced,” Allen said, before noting that he agreed with the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance policies until they’re 26.

Kaine, however, said Americans don’t want to look back on health care or other issues. Gregory posited that some Americans may want to look back if the new law means they’re going to face a tax increase for not purchasing health care.

“There are fixes that are necessary,” Kaine admitted.

Same-sex marriage was broached quickly when Kaine was asked where he fell on an all-out endorsement for gay marriage.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that being for equality is never a bad thing,” Kaine said. While he believes in equal protection under the law for either same- or different-sex couples, the Democrat said states should decided whether to label a bond a “marriage” or “civil union.”

“For me the test is, ‘are people treated the same and given the same legal rights and responsibilities regardless of their sexual orientation?,’” Kaine asked.

Allen said marriage should be between one man and one women. But he added that he doesn’t believe in discrimination against people due to sexual preference.

“I look at people’s capabilities, their skills – their willingness to be effective … To me, the most important thing that somebody can do in public service is make sure people have jobs,” Allen said, bringing the same-sex question back to the economy.

While the high-profile Senate race has consistently been neck and neck, both a Washington Post and Quinnipiac-CBS News-New York Times poll released this week show Kaine gaining a slight advantage.


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