Warner urges Congress to pass budget deal, highlights shutdown risks
About 40 percent of Hampton Roads' economic activity is tied to defense spending.
Sen. Mark Warner was flanked by leaders of marine maintenance companies — defense contractors dependent on federal dollars — when he spoke in Norfolk about last week’s averted shutdown.
He highlighted the dangers of missing the new Nov. 17 deadline.
“There is no state in the country that would be harder hit by a government shutdown than Virginia. And there's no part of Virginia that would be harder hit by a government shutdown than Hampton Roads,” Warner said Monday.
The Senate voted 88-9 Saturday night to extend the old budget by 6 weeks. Warner said he wasn’t happy with that result — in part because it’s a continuing resolution, meaning contractors will have to abide by last year’s spending levels.
“So, if you’ve got a ship repaired and you have finished your job, and you've got hope that somebody else is going to come into your dock shortly and be repaired, you can't even move the funds to do the repair,” he said. “This is the stupidest business decision ever. It costs the taxpayers money.”
The other reason Warner said he isn’t satisfied with Saturday’s vote is the short-term benefits of averting the shutdown.
“All we've done is maintain the operations of the government for 45 more days," he said. "So, the same movie that we've seen so many times could repeat itself in the middle of November. That is completely irresponsible.”
When the government last shut down in 2018, Southeastern Virginia was hit hard. Furloughed federal employees from the Coast Guard to NOAA struggled for 34 days.
Forty percent of the area’s economic activity is tied to defense spending. And there are around 60,000 defense contractors in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia alone.
Warner said that for those people, the bare minimum isn’t being met.
“I was at an event for Ken Stolle yesterday, my friend of 20-plus years," Warner said. "[A]nd people were saying, ‘Thanks, Mark. Thanks for not shutting down the government.’ Holy heck — what kind of low bar is that?”