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GOP roadshow: Senators pound on need to stave off defense cuts

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The town hall was the third stop in the trio’s “Preserving America’s Strength” tour, which included earlier discussions in Tampa, Fla., and Fayetteville, N.C. On Tuesday, the group was to hold a final meeting in Merrimack, N.H. In Norfolk, they were greeted by some 200 listeners who were largely older and affiliated with the armed services.

Many said they came to the speech because they fear what the defense cuts would mean for their community.

“These are our Fortune 500 companies,” said Lynne Uher of Virginia Beach.

One defense-industry-funded study showed roughly 1 million jobs at risk if the cuts happen, although Virginia and Florida were the only states on the “America’s Strength” trip to make the Top 10. The Sunshine State was fourth with more than 49,000 potential job losses. Virginia was seventh with some 37,000.

The cuts are part of the sequester – Washington shorthand for the automatic spending reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act, which ended last summer’s debt-ceiling fight. McCain voted for the bill; Senators Ayotte and Graham joined 17 other Republicans in voting against it.

Both parties say the cuts – in both defense and discretionary spending – are abhorrent. But a special committee of 12 lawmakers from both chambers couldn’t find a formula for offsetting the planned reductions. As such, they’re slated to hit the economy in the new year.

The town halls – part educational events to explain the sequester and part grass-roots rallies to generate awareness – demonstrate the uncomfortable intermingling of policy and politics that has led to so much gridlock on Capitol Hill ahead of November’s elections. 

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