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Defense Lobby Presses White House to Start Sequester Talks, Make Good on Debate Remark

The president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association called on the White House and Congress today to make good on President Barack Obama’s statement in Monday’s debate that automatic defense cuts will not happen.

Obama distanced himself from the “sequestration” process, saying it was proposed by Congress. “It will not happen,” he said.

Marion Blakey, who heads the aerospace lobby, said she found the remarks encouraging. “Believe me, when he said that, I jumped to my feet,” she said during a conference call with reporters today. “He is the leader, commander in chief, so what he says, I take as yes, he means what he says.”

However, Blakey said because the automatic cuts are written into law, only a new law can reverse course. She said the defense industry issued an immediate call for Congress and the White House to start talks before the elections. She also noted a poll that her group commissioned weeks ago showed 80 percent of voters in swing states said they wanted lawmakers to come up with an alternative to the sequester cuts.

She said the lame-duck session will be a compressed time period in which to resolve the matter.

“We need a workable plan at this point to address the problem,” she said. “I’m calling on the administration and the Congress to open up negotiations right now. … Sequestration begins in 70 days.”

Blakey said local communities are beginning to worry that if sequestration takes effect, the job losses will hit them. The AIA has put out reports from economists saying that more than 2 million jobs are at risk.

“We need to see the White House put forward a team, a person, an initiative to sit down and start discussing specifics of what averting sequestration would involve,” Blakey said. But she added it was not the role of the defense industry to provide alternative revenue raisers — that is for elected officials to map out because it “affects the entire economy and the entire population.”

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