U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said during a recent tour of Southwest Virginia that his first five months on the job have been a great experience despite his Democratic party being battered on issues like Benghazi and the budget cutbacks due to sequestration.
The White House released more than 100 emails earlier this month in regard to the September 2011 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, including ones that detailed information about the Central Intelligence Agency having information about the proposed attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans days before it was carried out, according to the Associated Press.
Kaine, 55, said during an interview with the Bristol Herald Courier that too much time has been spent on speculation in the nation’s capital and not enough has been done to make sure recommendations from a special committee that studied the attack are put in place to guard against another attack at other American embassy installations.
“My concern is we spend a lot of time in Washington going back and forth on who said what on the talk shows and not spend enough time on what we can do to make embassy security better,” Kaine said.
“Two of the recommendations were first at Quantico where we train the Marine security guards. We need to increase the number of guards we train. The second one was the State Department needs to have a better training program within (its program). They were moving forward to do that at Fort Pickett. But instead of talking about funding these programs to improve things, we keep putting the focus on what’s being said on the talk shows.
“The real scandal will be if we do not spend time fixing the things that need to be fixed. I’ve decided I’m going to let other people in the Senate and Congress worry about the blame game and I’m going to keep my attention on what we have to fix to keep our people safe who are serving our country in that way.”
The move to cut $85 billion from the federal books known as sequestration comes up nearly every day in either an email, phone call or letter since President Barack Obama signed an order making the cuts in early March, he said.
“The feeling has been disgust,” the senator said. “Especially on the defense cut side. Down in Hampton Roads, you have all of these ship repair personnel who have been hit hard. What the Navy has done to deal with sequestration is to slow or delay ship repairs, so you have all of these private sector employees in the shipyards who are getting furloughed, laid off or having their hours reduced, so there is a significant challenge there.
“You also have furloughs. You have 80,000 to 90,000 workers in Virginia and over 900,000 nationwide who are getting their paychecks cut. Army nurses at federal hospitals that take care of our wounded warriors who are getting furloughed 11 days. These are people doing important jobs. I am not that optimistic that there will be a short-term fix between now and the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, but I am working very hard with my colleagues.”
Kaine says he is “enjoying the challenges” of serving on the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. It has a personal appeal for him because one of his two sons is currently serving in the military.
The senator said his biggest surprise has been the lack of communication in Washington.
“What I think has been surprising are the disagreements in Washington are less about ideology, and that’s certainly part of it, but really, it’s poor communication skills between each other, not talking to each other and not listening to each other,” he said. “You can’t find compromise unless you spend time talking to each other. That’s easier to fix than to convince someone their ideology is wrong. We just need to spend more time talking to one another and find a better way forward.”