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Sequester-avoiding measures die in the Senate

Two pieces of legislation to reduce the severe impact sequestration will have on Virginia and the nation's economy failed in the Senate today, the Democratic plan by a vote of 51-49 and the Republican alternative by a 38-62 count.

The name for automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts, sequestration is expected to ax more than $1 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade – approximately $85 billion this year -- if enacted Friday.

Today's Democratic pitch, which Republicans say had no chance to pass the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, was comprised of budget-cutting through a half-cuts, half-revenue approach. The Republican bill would've granted President Barack Obama the authority make more targeted savings rather than allowing the indiscriminate defense and discretionary spending cuts to be enacted.

Both Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D), of Virginia, voted in favor of the Democrats' plan. Warner also supported the Republican plan, while Kaine opposed.

Warner said both bills represented a “less stupid approach than sequestration and its disproportionate impact on Virginia.”

“I voted for the Reid proposal because I favored its 50-50 blend of targeted spending cuts and new revenues, which would have avoided sequester and moved us further toward a balanced approach to fix the debt,” Warner said in a prepared statement. “I voted for the Republican counter-proposal because it would have provided flexibility in making the required cuts.”

With its strong tie to the federal government, including the armed services and the defense contract industry, Virginia's economy is estimated to be fiercely impacted by the automatic reductions. Economists have estimated more than 100,000 jobs in the commonwealth could be lost in the months ahead if sequestration plays out.

The current Washington budget war stems largely from the 2011 debt-ceiling debate in Congress. In order to give President Obama permission to pay the government's obligations (increase the debt-ceiling), Congress hashed out a deal that guaranteed $2 trillion in deficit reduction in the next 10 years, half of which would come from the mandated defense and discretionary sequestration cuts.

The cuts were set to go into effect in January 2013, but Congress passed a last-minute deal to delay it until March out of fear the deep cuts, paired with the expiration of certain tax cuts from past years, would cripple the nation's economy.

Kaine said the Republican proposal would “in no way reduce the number of Virginia who stand to be impacted by the sequester.”

“It would leave massive cuts in place and hurt everyone from sailors and pilots in Norfolk, to shipbuilders in Newport News, to teachers across the Commonwealth,” Kaine said in a prepared statement.

President Obama and congressional leaders are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss plans for moving forward.

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