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Kaine says he'll work for compromise
Sen.-elect Tim Kaine speaks during a press conference
Steve Helber/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--Virginia's new U.S. senator-elect, Tim Kaine, said his first priority will be working to find bipartisan compromise on looming fiscal problems.
But some of them need to be solved before Kaine even takes office.
The so-called "sequestration" cuts of $1.2 trillion, put in place last year by lawmakers as part of a debt deal, will kick in in January unless Congress acts before then to stop them. They weren't meant to actually happen, but instead to be a threat to spur Congress to find more palatable budget cuts, which never took place.
Also in January, the "fiscal cliff" hits--that's the shorthand term for the automatic ending of a number of tax cuts, including the Bush-era income-tax cuts, President Barack Obama's temporary payroll-tax cuts, and certain tax cuts for businesses, if Congress doesn't act to extend them.
Congress has been at a standoff for months over how to resolve both issues. The campaign halted progress while politicians ran for re-election and waited to see whether the players would change--whether a different president would be elected, whether the Senate would turn Republican.
But neither happened--Obama is still president, the Senate is still Democratic and the House is still Republican.
At a Wednesday press conference in Richmond, Kaine--who beat Republican George Allen in the race Tuesday--said that while he won't be in office until January, he hopes to encourage a lame-duck Congress to work to avert those upcoming budget cuts and tax increases.
Kaine said he wants "to be part of a solution team" to get the nation's "fiscal house in order."
"I'm going to continue to advocate a basic set of compromises," Kaine said.
Allowing the sequestration cuts and the tax-cut expirations to go forward, he said "would send a very bad signal" about Congress' ability to work together and to repair the economy.
Kaine made bipartisanship and compromise a centerpiece of his campaign and said the election results mean that the electorate wants lawmakers to find common ground.
"The key is for us in public office to read the message from the electorate," Kaine said. "They want cooperative government. They are telling us over and over again they want us to work together."
Gov. Bob McDonnell also said Wednesday that the sequestration and fiscal-cliff issues will require both parties to compromise and "find common ground for the people."