With less than two weeks remaining until the presidential election, the candidates addressed the issue of sequestration on Monday, saying they both would like to see that scenario avoided, but offered little in the way of specifics on how to see it doesn't happen.
Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey said she and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Tom Buffenbarger requested Bob Schieffer, moderator of Monday's debate, ask the candidates to discuss their views on sequestration.
Sequestration looms for the defense industry with the possibility of zapping $1.2 trillion from federal defense spending unless Congress provides a restructured deficit reduction plan.
“I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts,” said Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
In reaction to Romney’s claim about the budget cuts, President Barack Obama rejected the notion that it was legislation that he proposed. "First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed," said Obama."It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen."
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Blakey said she was encouraged by the president’s remarks opposing the sequester.
“Sequestration begins in 70 days,” said Blakey. “With a crowded, short lame duck session, it simply is not acceptable for everyone to say ‘well, we’re going to wish this away, say it must not happen’ but not go ahead and deal with it now. If the conviction is there that it will not happen, then we’ve got to have the specifics.”
Republicans reacted strongly to the president’s remarks during the debate, stating he has not presented legislation that would avoid sequestration.
“If the sequester isn't going to happen, as he says, will the president finally offer a plan to solve the problem?” said Kevin Smith, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Furthermore, with two weeks left until the election and Congress on recess until November, it is highly unlikely the White House is able to work with Congress prior to the election or in the lame duck session to provide legislation that would avoid the sequester.
However, Blakey is calling on both sides to provide action immediately, pointing to a study released by AIA predicting a loss of more than 2 million jobs and a decrease in FAA's budget by $1 billion a year over the next nine years if sequestration happens.