(CNN) – Two high-profile governors had vastly different assessments Sunday of who was to blame for the massive cuts to defense spending that are slated to go into effect at the beginning of next year.
The so-called "fiscal cliff," which would force the Pentagon to cut $500 billion from its budgets over the next decade, came about after congressional negotiators failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan last fall. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, blamed the potential cuts on the White House, while Gov. Deval Patrick, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Republicans in Congress were to blame.
"They need to act now to try to address this, because defense contractors might have to send out warning notices in the next couple months to hundreds of thousands of employees saying you might not have a job. So I think the president needs to lead on this, get Congress back, and do something about sequestration," McDonnell said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Virginia relies heavily on the U.S. military for jobs and is home to the largest naval base in the world in Norfolk. Thousands more Virginians are employed by private defense contractors, which have said they are preparing to slash their workforces should the mandated budget cuts go into effect.
Massachusetts would also be heavily impacted by cuts to the U.S. defense budget. Patrick said the responsibility for the cuts should be placed with Republicans in Congress who were unwilling to strike a compromise with the Democratic White House.
"I don't think anybody wants this to happen, but, remember, we have sequestration because the Republican Congress wouldn't reach out, reach back to the president on a balanced approach, which was a combination of cuts and tax increases," Patrick said.
He continued, "When I hear about issues of leadership, remember, it was the president who reached a deal with (House Speaker John) Boehner more than a year ago now. Speaker Boehner couldn't sell it with his tea party caucus back in the House."
McDonnell disagreed, saying that Obama was as much to blame as Republicans in the House for the breakdown in negotiations over the federal deficit.
"It's a bipartisan failure that we got to the point where we're at, where we're running up this much national debt," McDonnell said, adding: "The president needs to take leadership and say, 'Let's get back and fix this now to create certainty.'"
Both governors act as surrogates for their parties' presidential candidates, and on Sunday each said his party's man would be better equipped to handle deficit reduction over the next four years.
McDonnell said presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney would take his cues from states with Republican governors that have produced balanced budgets.
"There's something different going on, and that's why Mitt Romney is saying, 'Look, you like the way the governance worked in Republican-governed states, elect me and you'll see more of the same.'"
Patrick disagreed, saying much of his time as governor of the Bay State has been spent reversing policies enacted by Romney, who held the office from 2003 to 2007.
"We're growing twice as fast as the national growth rate, and many of the things that Mitt Romney left broken we have fixed," Patrick said. "So a strategy which is about investing around growth, investing in education, in infrastructure, and in innovation - which is actually quite like what is happening in Virginia - is working in Massachusetts as well, and it's precisely the strategy that the president has proposed at the national level."