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The Debt Debate Spills Over into Virginia Politics

By Marshall Kirby | August 8, 2011 | No Comments

The federal debate over increasing the debt ceiling raged for months.  For years, especially during the Bush Administration, politicians were allowed to give simple up and down votes for raising the debt ceiling.  Unfortunately, in this hot political climate, GOP leaders have forsaken their jobs of leadership and governance.  Instead they opted to hold the United States credit rating and government operations hostage.

The consequences of the debt debate were well publicized.  The Treasury would have to prioritize Federal obligations like military pay, Social Security, Medicare, contractor pay, employee benefits and salaries, education, student loans, and anti-poverty programs.  Fortunately, Congress was able to come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling.  While the deal contained a number of government cuts and no revenue, it maintained the government’s ability to borrow.

The Richmond Times Dispatch, ran an article on Sunday on the political impact in the Commonwealth, including the fate of Virginia in the 2012 election cycle, and a profile of Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Mark Warner.

House Majority Leader Cantor was heavily involved in the debt ceiling debates.  As the article points out, that despite given a high profile seat at the negotiating table with VP Biden, Cantor became a figure of Washington disenfranchisement.  After walking away in a public way from the talks, he gave the impression of being unwilling to compromise.  While this bolsters his credibility in the conservative base, it damaged his perception amongst moderates and independents.  According to UVA Professor Larry Sabato, this will unlikely have any detrimental effects on his re-election chances as his district will likely become more Republican leaning in redistricting.

Mark Warner, on the on other hand, was able to bolster his credibility on budget issues.  Senator Warner was part of the well-publicized Gang of Six, which worked together to forge consensus on cuts and revenue increases.  While it ultimately failed to win popular support, his work showed a wider audience his ability to understand budget issues and find solutions through compromise.  Following his tenure as popular governor, the freshman Senator is well positioned for a coveted spot on the “Super Committee” to find more long term debt solutions.

These issues will factor into the 2012 election.  Despite carrying Virginia in 2008, President Obama has a tough road in his re-election.  Obama will need the economy to improve, unemployment to go down, and further solutions to the debt situation.  President Obama though can take a cue from Sen. Warner and show that he is serious about governance and compromise rather than ideological purity.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.

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