VIRGINIA BEACH - Congress and President Barack Obama are putting on a full-court press in Hampton Roads as the deadline to sequestration approaches.
The across-the-board cuts set for March 1 will hit Virginia particularly hard because of Dept. of Defense cuts and the ripple effect they would have on businesses that supply America's military machine.
Three Republican congressmen - Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st D), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2nd D.) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th D.) - talked Monday to a packed house about sequestration’s effects on Hampton Roads and the state.
Rep. Rigell told the crowd, "Even at this late hour, there are alternatives ... we're fighting."
He said the deadline hasn't arrived and already Hampton Roads is feeling the effects of the impasse.
The town hall began at 9:00 a.m. at the Westin Va. Beach Town Center, located at 4535 Commerce Street.
A frustrated businessman got loud applause when he suggested "Congress should forfeit their pay until we have a budget."
Rep. Forbes announced he'd introduced a bill (H.R.773) to remove the Department of Defense from sequestration and reduce the total size of the sequester by that amount.
Rep. Forbes said the health care bill and stimulus bills equal the amount being cut out of defense under sequestration.
On Tuesday, President Obama will be at Newport News Shipbuilding making his case for getting a deal. The yard, Virginia's largest industrial employer with more than 21,000 workers, has already felt the impact. The Pentagon put off this month's scheduled overhaul of the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Rep. Rigell told the Westin audience that President Obama was "late to the game" on sequestration.
During a live interview on 13News Daybreak Monday, Rep. Wittman said the sequester could have an impact upwards of 200,000 jobs and an economic impact of over $20 billion. He hopes a deal will be done by Friday.
"I think we’re at the point where blame doesn’t matter," he said. "We have to do all we can to set aside the sequester, to make sure that as we look at reducing the budget that we do it in a smart and thoughtful way. These indiscriminant cuts on our military are not the way to make these cuts happen. "
Wittman also said he's optimistic that sequestration can be avoided, but if no deal is reached by Friday, he thinks Congress should stay in Washington and work on the issue.
On CBS This Morning, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said, "I don't think the public realizes how stupid these [spending] cuts are."