Leading defense hawks said they will introduce legislation next month to prevent mandatory budget cuts to the Pentagon – tempting President Obama’s threat to veto any effort to undo the automatic reductions that have been triggered by Congress’ failure to strike a deficit-reduction deal.
The GOP proposal aims squarely at Obama’s veto threat, as Republicans seek to assert their dominance on national security issues heading into the 2012 presidential election.
The Republican senators say theirs was a more skilled approach to budgeting as they intend to send a message that the Pentagon will be protected from automatic cuts. Defense and domestic accounts face $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, beginning in 2013, because of the failure of the congressional super-committee on deficit reduction to find budget cuts elsewhere.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that level of reductions would slice deeply into the nation’s military budget, even as he stood by the president’s veto threat. The Republican senators had harsh words for the mandatory triggered cuts.
“In a Congress that’s known for coming up with ill-conceived ideas, this one takes the cake,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It offends the hell out of me.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona called it an “idiotic process.”
The mandatory reductions have come about because the super-committee was unable to find consensus on a mix of spending reductions and new taxes to reduce the nation’s deficits. Under the summer debt ceiling deal that created the committee, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the next decade would be triggered, beginning in 2013, unless Congress agreed to the committee’s recommendations.
The $1.2 trillion in reductions would cut evenly across defense and non-defense accounts. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed opposition to the defense cuts. Democrats are concerned, however, that if defense is spared, the reductions will fall more heavily to other domestic accounts.
The Republican senators said their legislation would propose cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, drawing on the work of the super-committee and other budget task forces this year.