Subject: ML Cantor & Gov. McDonnell on the impact of sequestration on Virginia.
At: 2:40 PM
Location: House Triangle
Who knew that the above daily press gallery listing e-mailed to reporters on Capitol Hill late Tuesday could cause so much trouble?
Today, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was set to meet with members of the Virginia Congressional delegation. The delegation has been known to be quite good at working together in a bipartisan way in the past — particularly as it relates to defense matters. Today in a rare moment for the Virginia lawmakers, election year politics would seem to have gotten in the way.
A planned meeting with all 13 members of the delegation and Governor McDonnell was derailed when Democrats bolted. The five Democrats issued a joint press release saying they would not attend. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb along with Reps. Jim Moran, Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly, stated, “The Democratic members opted not to attend after the Governor’s Office scheduled a Republican-only news conference at the conclusion of the meeting,” via their joint statement.
The release stated:
“Today’s approach to what has always been a bipartisan discussion simply is not the Virginia way. For decades, the Virginia congressional delegation has had a tradition of productive, bipartisan meetings with a long line of recent governors, Republican and Democrat. At these meetings and thereafter, partisan politics always took a backseat to our combined efforts to move Virginia forward… Today’s delegation meeting was derailed by Republican efforts to apply a partisan spin to the discussion and to the issues that face us. We reject this approach and find it to be contrary to Virginia’s long traditions in such matters… Democrats in the Virginia congressional delegation understand and take seriously the potential impact of sequestration on Virginia’s defense industry and overall economy. We are working hard to avoid spending reductions which would harm our national security. We had hoped to have a substantive conversation with Governor McDonnell and our Republican colleagues about how to do just that… We look forward to the next delegation meeting where we can work together in a cohesive and constructive way to move Virginia forward.”
At about 2:15 p.m., shortly after the Democrats statement circulated, the press conference was cancelled. All calls to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office on the matter were referred to Governor McDonnell’s office.
McDonnell’s spokesman Tucker Martin is quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “To assuage Democratic concerns, we have agreed to cancel our unrelated press conference scheduled for after today’s meeting. We would hope that the Democratic delegation will now attend today’s meeting…”
When Republican members of the Virginia delegation exited Cantor’s office at the conclusion of the meeting with Governor McDonnell they indicated surprise Democrats did not attend. Further, Reps. Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell and Rob Wittman all said they are planning to attend the next monthly delegation meeting to be held tomorrow. Wittman and Rigell didn’t indicate today’s event would have lasting impact on bipartisanship in VA’s delegation. They also told reporters what was discussed saying that defense cuts was an issue but there were many other issues discussed — including Medicare — that were unrelated to defense.
Rep. Frank Wolf would not answer any questions on the situation as he exited the meeting.
Rep. Randy Forbes was the only member who exited indicating annoyance with the situation. Forbes pulled out a 2009 press clipping as he spoke to The Hill’s Russell Berman that referred to a similar incident when Tim Kaine was Virginia’s Governor and President Obama’s stimulus was being discussed. Forbes said Democrats will talk about any other topic but sequestration.
Berman asked Forbes about whether he’d attend tomorrow’s VA delegation meeting.
“Well first of all if they’re not going to come to a meeting with the Governor — I haven’t heard anything from Mr. Moran — we have a bipartisan luncheon every month. Webb has not come to it twice in six years — you know so — this is the governor or Virginia coming up here and they want to boycott this because they think he’s going to have a press conference? How petty can you get. This is petty.”
Tomorrow the Virginians have their monthly delegation meeting. It doesn’t look as if what happened today will derail it… but we won’t know for certain until Thursday.