PHOENIX -- They're one of the largest employers in the Valley, but many workers are worried about their future at Boeing given some pending defense cuts.
Consensus in Washington is hard to come by and as a result the nation is facing massive cuts especially to its defense budget, but Sen. John McCain is optimistic those cuts can be avoided if Democrats and Republicans can find a way to work together.
"Most Americans have no idea this is looming," McCain said. "The American people deserve better than what they are getting."
McCain is talking about $1.2 trillion in budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 2, half of which will target defense funding. It's an issue that hits close to home for this audience at the Boeing operations center in Mesa where the Apache helicopter is built.
"I can't stand here before you and tell you this facility is immune," McCain said.
The senator, however, told the crowd he's willing to admit he made a mistake voting for the Budget Control Act that set up the super committee which failed to reach a consensus on the deficit which, as a result, triggered the sequestrations, a series of automatic across the board federal cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn't reach a budget solution in the next couple months.
"It was a bad vote," McCain said. "I'll say it's my fault, I'll take responsibility if they want, but what we need to do is fix it and fix it before it's too late."
Democrats agree these defense cuts need to be addressed.
"We now find ourselves holding a meat cleaver at programs such as defense and Social Security without analysis and targeted reduction where areas should be reduced," said Rep. Raul Grijalva. "We insisted that there be revenue generation that you close corporate loopholes and look at the top 1 percent in terms of tax increases to create revenue and avoid more brutal cuts."
McCain said he can support closing corporate loopholes and believes everything should be on the table except raising taxes.
He told Boeing employees these cuts should not be a partisan issue and what's important is that this be addressed by Congress before catastrophe strikes.
"We've got to raise awareness … call talk shows, call your elected representatives, Republicans and Democrats," McCain said.
It's all part of his "Preserving America's Strength" cross-country tour. The senator said he's optimistic that Republicans and Democrats can work together and compromise to avoid these massive across-the-board cuts if the voters demand it. He said in this case it's a matter of national security and he is asking people to not only call on their representatives, but call on those candidates who are campaigning and find out where they stand on the issue.