Sequester Countdown: Why Virginians Are Frustrated

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With the sequestration deadline less than 48 hours away, the president has yet to meet with Washington leaders to strike a deal.

Instead he's campaigning against the $85 billion in cuts, stopping Tuesday in the Hampton Roads, Va., area, home to Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard bases.

White House numbers predict Virginia would be among the hardest hit by a drop in Pentagon spending, with around 90,000 civilian Defense Department employees possibly being furloughed.

President Obama visited the shipyard in Newport News, where the Navy's aircraft carriers are built. As America's largest military installation, it employs thousands of people to build and maintain ships for the Navy and Coast Guard.

"What the sequester does is it uses the meat cleaver approach to gut things, like education and national security," Obama said.

But some political critics call the White House numbers -- and the president's campaign against the automatic cuts -- a push to spread fear among American people.

At a Hampton Roads town hall, three area congressmen heard more frustration than fear.

Custom bike shop owner David "Zeus" Ang said he normally stays out of politics. But just the threat of a sequester is hurting his business since 90 percent of his customers are members of the military.

"Guys that were getting ready to be deployed, their deployments are getting cut or they're not sure if it's going to get deployed, so they are not going to spend their recreation money because they have to take care of their home first," Ang said.

Ang is taking care of his home as well. He's delayed expanding his business, canceled plans to buy new equipment, put off hiring people, and even cut his own pay.

He'd like Washington leaders to follow his business model -- both Democrats and Republicans.

"It's just time that we make them responsible for what they are doing," Ang said. "Otherwise, they are going to have to be let go. I mean I have had employees, it's like, 'If you're not doing the job I have hired you to do, I can't keep paying you.'"

That frustration hasn't fallen on deaf ears. It's why Virginia Republican Reps. Scott Rigell, Robert Wittman, and Randy Forbes called the town hall meeting.

"The likelihood of sequestration happening is very, very high," Rigell said. "You could describe it as certain."

"We have to be able to talk to others and say what this means to the nation as a whole -- what this does to our military readiness," Wittman added.

Forbes said, "defense is not a faucet."

"You don't just turn it off for three months and turn it back on," he said. "Some of these availabilities, if they get delayed, they will never happen."

The threat of training cuts worries military wife Amanda Loeffler, whose husband has been deployed three times.

"We discuss what it is going to look like, and we're like, it is going to be ugly," she said. "But you have to do what you have to do. We are hoping that they come to an agreement and something passes, but you never know."

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., is also hearing from frustrated Hampton Roads voters. The Democratic lawmaker voted against extending tax cuts in January.

"This is something we can clearly fix. We just need to get to work and do it," he said. "We should have not extended the tax cuts until the sequester had been taken care of."

Still, Scott stands with his Republican colleagues and against the automatic cuts to defense spending.

For now, the sequester appears likely if not certain. But many of those who will be affected by it say they'll get by and make do as they have to. They wish Washington would find a way to do the same.

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at