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Republican Governor's clout needed on federal spending: Virginia Democrats

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (L) at an election rally in Sterling, Virginia,
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (L) at an election rally in Sterling, Virginia,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia Democratic congressmen urged the state's Republican governor on Friday to use his influence in Washington to press for a "balanced" deficit reduction deal, one with more revenue to replace some of the looming spending cuts they said would devastate Virginia's economy.

The appeal to Republican Governor Bob McDonnell comes just days after he urged President Barack Obama to push Senate Democrats to pass a Republican plan to halt spending cuts that would hit military and defense contractors in January.

Virginia stands to lose 207,571 jobs as a result of the coming across-the-board cuts of $109 billion for federal programs, according to a study commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association. Half the cuts are allocated to defense-related programs, and half would hit other discretionary domestic spending.

But in Virginia, which is home to the Pentagon and many military contractors, the job impact from defense cuts would be larger, with 136,191 jobs lost, compared to 71,380 jobs lost from non-defense cuts, according to the AIA study.

McDonnell argued that the defense cuts also would put national security at risk.

The Republican plan to halt the military cuts, written by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and passed by the House in May, would shift the first year's worth of cuts to domestic programs, several of which aid the poor, including Medicaid and food stamps. The Democratic-controlled Senate has declined, so far, to debate or vote on the plan.

In their letter to McDonnell, Congressmen Jim Moran, Gerald Connolly and Bobby Scott said the Republican plan would simply push the burden of cuts onto domestic programs and trigger "massive layoffs" in Virginia's large non-defense federal workforce.

"Your concerns about the impact on Virginia of a sequester (automatic spending cuts) to defense spending, which we share, applies almost equally to non-defense discretionary spending, to which your letter (to Obama) is silent," the Democrats wrote to McDonnell.

The congressmen said McDonnell was "uniquely positioned" to influence House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor - a Virginia Republican himself. McDonnell has campaigned tirelessly for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the battleground state.

"We hope you will join us in calling on Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to begin discussions on a balanced deficit reduction package that can garner bipartisan support," they wrote.

A spokesman for McDonnell in Richmond was not immediately available for comment on the Democrats' request.

The aerospace industry and its main union also on Friday tried to push the defense cuts into the limelight in the final presidential debate on Monday, calling on the moderator, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, to include a question on the topic.

The Aerospace Industries Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in a joint statement noted that the subject had received "scant attention" in previous debates, despite its substantial impact on the economy.

"Sequestration would be a disaster for our national security," they said. Monday night's debate is set to focus on foreign policy.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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