Defense group calls for immediate sequester negotiations

“If the conviction is there that it will not happen then we’ve got to have the specifics … ready to go when we come back,” she said.

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Obama added a jolt of energy into the fight over sequestration Monday when he said that the cuts simply “will not happen.” It was a departure from his past statements that a “balanced” approach was needed to stop sequestration and that he would veto legislation that did not accomplish that.

AIA, which has been the most vocal group fighting sequestration in Washington, has been clamoring for the issue to come up at the presidential debates, and it had barely been touched on through the first three.

Blakey got her wish Monday — she said she jumped out of her chair when she heard Obama’s comments.

On Tuesday, Blakey said there’s enough momentum with leaders form both sides of the aisle that they should begin working now on a proposal that would be ready to go at the start of the lame-duck session.

“This must not wait until the middle of November,” Blakey said. “It has to be addressed right now. It would increase the chances of success in a lame-duck very substantially.”

Of course, it’s a request unlikely to be fulfilled with just two weeks before an election in which the cuts have become a major campaign issue.

In the campaign, the two parties have blamed each other for allowing sequestration — a policy that was not supposed to go into effect — to remain on the books, as the defense cuts have been wrapped up into a larger fight over taxes.

The potential defense industry job losses due to sequestration have also been used in the presidential campaign and congressional races in military-heavy swing states like Virginia, with candidates frequently using numbers that stem from AIA-backed studies.

Senior White House officials backed away from Obama’s vow that sequester would not occur after Monday’s debate, and White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said that Obama’s remarks did not represent any change in his position.

Republicans criticized Obama for the remark, saying that they’ve been reaching out for months and he has not put forward any proposals. GOP congressional aides said that the White House backtracking was a sign that Obama had weakened Democrats’ bargaining position on the lame-duck deliberations.

Asked whether it was realistic to get action on the sequester cuts ahead of the election, Blakey said: “I take the president at his word.”

“This is a self-inflicted problem that came out of last summer’s gridlock on the Hill and within the administration,” she said. “It’s time to step up, say this was a mistake, it was bad policy, we’ve got to take another approach.”

Most Democrats and Republicans agree that sequestration should not occur, but they remain deadlocked in a dispute over taxes. Blakey said that AIA believes all options must be on the table to solve sequestration, but that the trade group and its industry members should not be making proposals about how to solve it.

“I do not think it is our role or appropriate for us to suggest we are somehow more capable than the elected officials to come up with what they need,” she said.