Kaine gives maiden floor speech on ‘huge effect’ of sequester

“A normal first speech as a senator is normally a forward, proactive looking speech, but we’re not in normal times,” Kaine said. “So I am speaking a bit earlier than I thought likely when I took the oath of office. ... The abnormality of the times will have a huge effect on the Commonwealth that I represent ... the sequestration.”

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On Friday, $85 billion of automatic spending cuts will take effect if Congress does not act. Lawmakers have been working to find a way to replace the cuts, which are predicted to cost the U.S. economy thousands of jobs and cause many workers in Virginia and around the country to be furloughed.

“Never in my knowledge has this body designed legislation that would hurt the average person, yet we’re about to allow that to happen,” Kaine said. “This is so significant and so severe that I feel compelled to speak on this matter.”

Kaine proceeded to describe how the people of his state would be harmed by sequestration through cuts to education and military funding. He said more than 90,000 workers would be furloughed in Virginia alone.

“In Virginia, 90,000 workers will be furloughed — that’s one state,” Kaine said. “Not many towns in Virginia even have 90,000 people.”

Lawmakers added the sequester to the Budget Control Act in 2011 as a trigger to motivate members to agree on a major deficit-reduction deal, but so far no deal has been reached.

Kaine said the Democratic approach was the only balanced option because it included 50 percent spending cuts and 50 percent new revenues, while the Republican plan is all spending cuts.

“The right way to do this is in a balanced way,” Kaine said. "We’re faced with a fundamental decision about whether we’re going to benefit the economy or hurt the economy."