By Russell Berman - 07/18/12 07:33 PM EDT
A scheduled meeting of the Virginia congressional delegation with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) devolved into partisan acrimony, as Democratic lawmakers boycotted the get-together because McDonnell planned to criticize President Obama in a press conference afterward.
In a statement, Democratic members of the delegation said the planned meeting was historically bipartisan but “was derailed by Republican efforts to apply a partisan spin to the discussion.”
“We reject this approach and find it to be contrary to Virginia’s long traditions in such matters,” Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner and Reps. Jim Moran, Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly said in a joint statement.
“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,” they said.
With Cantor seemingly caught in the middle, McDonnell canceled the press conference and met only with Republican members of the delegation in Cantor’s Capitol office.
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that “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.”
Martin said McDonnell is “committed to holding a bipartisan joint delegation meeting. It's unfortunate that our Democratic friends would jeopardize that meeting to make a political point. We certainly haven't objected to their press conferences and campaign events in the past, and we completely understood when some Democrats spent their weekend stumping with the president.”
Scott told The Hill that the entire delegation was expected to attend a monthly meeting organized by Moran on Thursday. He said he didn’t have a problem with McDonnell and the Republicans taking partisan shots at the president during an election year. “It’s just that you’re not going to get a bipartisan group to fire the shots,” he said.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R) disputed the Democratic claims that McDonnell was breaking with tradition, pulling out a news clip from 2009 reporting that Republicans had boycotted a similar meeting with then-Gov. Tim Kaine (D) because of a partisan fight over the economic stimulus package.
“This is the governor of Virginia coming up here and they want to boycott this because they think he’s going to have a press conference? How petty do you get? This is pretty petty,” Forbes said.