President’s visit puts Newport News Shipyard in center of sequestration debate

Posted at 7:37 PM, Feb 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-26 19:37:13-05

Some have worked here for 30 years, some for just a few months--but they all have the same worries.

“People are concerned about having a job, putting food on the table and making sure that we are able to build a good ship,” said Larry Washington, who has worked as a pipe fitter for the shipyard for 30 years.

“We need to get something done, it’s urgent,” said Don Wynn, a welder who has worked at the shipyard for 35 years.

These local pipe fitters and welders became the new face of the sequestration debate Tuesday, with the President of the United States showing the nation what is made in America, right here in Newport news.

“Every time I come to these places, I don’t know how you all do it. It’s amazing work,” said President Obama.

The president also knows what pride these 20,000 Newport News Shipyard workers take in that work.

“When you get up early and start your shift at 5:30 in the morning, you know if you work hard and you do a good job and make sure all the parts to this incredible ship that your building is where they need to be, if you’re doing what you do, then you can go home feeling satisfied that I did my job, I did my part,” said the President.

In front of the propeller to a submarine, President Obama said it was those in Washington who weren’t doing their jobs…with their inability to compromise affecting hard-working Americans.

“I know you guys must be getting tired, saying ‘Didn’t we just solve this thing? Now we got another thing coming up?’” said President Obama. “I’m finished running for re-election, Michelle is happy about that, but now, I’m not interested in spin, I am not interested in the blame game, at this point all I’m interested in is solving problems.”

Now, he is asking for the ship workers’ help to persuade Congress to stop these devastating sequestration cuts, and to finally pass a long-term military budget that will keep their jobs alive for years to come.

“So we can avoid laying off workers, kicking kids off Head Start and delaying financial aid for college students. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, it’s sure not partisan. The majority of the American people agree with me, the majority of Newport News agrees with me, that we need to get this done,” said President Obama. “Together we will remind the world why America builds the greatest ships on Earth and why we are the greatest nation on Earth.”

The president’s speech gave the thousands of shipyard workers in attendance just a little glimmer of hope.

“I’m hopeful that Congress and the President will reach an agreement,” said Wynn. “Maybe not immediately, but eventually they will come together.”

“This is what we do, this is our livelihood, just like the people in Congress. They have a job to do, we have a job to do down here, and we would like to be able to do our job, stay on our job and retire from our job,” said Washington. “Our message to Congress: do your job.”


Photos: President Obama in Hampton Roads

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President calls budget cuts a ‘self-inflicted wound’ at Newport News Shipbuilding