Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans have launched a drumbeat of opposition to Pentagon cuts they agreed to last summer as part of the debt deal with President Obama, and want to shift the burden of cuts to food stamps, school lunches and other domestic programs.
Armed with an industry-backed analysis that shows the loss of 2 million jobs – particularly hitting the aerospace industry in California and the critical swing state of Virginia -- Republicans are blaming Obama in an attack that stretches from Washington to the presidential campaign trail.
The House overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday that would require an administration investigation into the economic toll of the looming cuts.
The GOP strategy comes as Americans, after a decade of wars, are wary of more military spending and want investments on the homefront to create jobs.
Attempts Wednesday to criticize the president’s leadership as commander in chief bumped up against the military successes Obama has achieved in the killing of Osama bin Laden and ending the war in Iraq.
“As commander in chief, the president has many responsibilities, but at the top of the list is to make sure that our country is secure,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who is the liaison between Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and Republicans on the Hill.
The White House and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have shown no interest sparing the Pentagon at the expense of further carving into nondefense accounts, which already face cuts equal to those at the Pentagon as part of the summer debt deal.
As Obama met privately Wednesday with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has warned that the cuts would devastate the military, Democrats turned up the volume on their call for wealthy Americans to pay higher taxes to help balance the books.
Even though many Democrats are also worried about Pentagon cuts, they prefer an approach that would raise tax rates, set to expire in December, on incomes beyond $200,000 a year for individuals or $250,000 for married couples, to bolster revenues.
Neither Congress nor the White House expected the $110 billion in cuts across most discretionary accounts in the federal budget would actually happen. As they agreed to the debt deal last summer, they assumed an alternative would emerge.
But as Washington heads toward the year-end "fiscal cliff,” compromise remains out of reach.
The stalemate is the same that has dogged lawmakers and the administration for the last 18 months, as they are unable to devise a plan that would reduce deficits by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
During last year’s deal, they agreed to the automatic, across-the-board cuts as a last resort, but lawmakers now say that approach should be better tailored toward priorities.
Nearly all Democrats joined Republicans in passing the measure Wednesday to seek the study. A similar measure has been proposed in the Senate.
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