While the U.S. Senate easily passed the tax compromise bill today, the deal between President Obama and Senate Republicans had generated an initial firestorm of angry opposition from Democrats last week.
But in Northern Virginia, it was Democratic U.S. Sen. James Webb, a Falls Church resident, who took the point in a high profile setting last Thursday to tout the compromise as good for the country and good for the economy.
Always known as fiercely independent since his election to his first term in the Senate in 2006, Webb showed up at the most liberal jurisdiction in Virginia to deliver his remarks to the annual meeting luncheon of Arlington County Chamber of Commerce, attended by several hundred.
Webb underscored his strong support for the controversial compromise tax plan worked out between President Obama and Senate Republicans. The plan, he said, “will stimulate the economy in a way TARP did not by putting money directly into the hands of people to spend it.” He called it “an act of leadership” by the president that includes incentives for both business and people and increases the circulation of money.
Webb also had strong comments about U.S.-Asia relations, including with China and the nations of Southeast Asia. Noting he was the first U.S. Senator in seven years to visit Laos, he said that a visible U.S. interest is needed in addressing the contentious issues among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and China, in particular.
“There are 650 million people in the ASEAN nations that represent a tremendous economic opportunity for the U.S.,” he said, but they face “volatile” issues in the region where the presence of the U.S. to balance geopolitical forces is vital. In the case of China, he said, the U.S. “needs to think hard about the relationship,” noting the “different governmental systems” and their significance on matters of “intellectual property, sovereignty and predictability in the region.”
Webb also reiterated his stand for a “Marshall Plan for the U.S.,” with aggressive development of nuclear energy as a key component. “We need to incentivize the development and export of nuclear energy, using innovative new approaches such as miniaturization,” he said, adding, “We need to create incentives to encourage countries and domestic investors in the U.S. to come to us.”
He cited the example of Germany, because of its strong balance of trade position. Germany, he noted, “focuses on mid-level niche companies, takes care of its workforce and produces quality products.” He noted the country has had national health care since the 1870s and 60 percent of its workers are union members.
The country produces quality products that the rest of the world wants, he added, comparing them as a “Trader Joe’s” model as opposed to a “Wal-Mart model.” He concluded, “We need to think outside the box to get our manufacturing sector up and running.”
Webb faces re-election to a second term in 2012, when he is expected to be challenged once again by the GOP’s George Allen. A recent poll showed Webb will have his hands full, ahead by only a single percentage point over Allen at this stage.