Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images (Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a Dec.)
U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon has introduced legislation that would cut the federal work force to pay for mandated sequestration cuts in fiscal year 2013.
The Down Payment to Protect National Security Act would impose a 10 percent reduction to the federal workforce through attrition and then apply those savings to pay for one year of sequestration, including both defense and non-defense categories, according to a Dec. 14 statement from McKeon, R-Calif.
The 10 percent reduction would be achieved over 10 years by only hiring one federal worker for every three who retires, he says.
This would generate $127 billion, according to McKeon. From this, $55 billion could pay for the first year of defense cuts under sequestration.
Another $55 billion could cover the non-defense cuts required, and the remaining $17 billion would be available for deficit reduction.
McKeon's bill only addresses the first year of sequestration, which begins in January 2013. It leaves the overall sequestration caps in place.
Earlier in the day, four Republican senators announced their intention to devise a much broader plan that would protect the Pentagon from the effects of budget sequestration by coming up with a package of cuts that would avoid $600 billion in automatic, across-the-board reductions.
Their plan, which won't be fully unveiled until January, essentially calls for reopening the bitter debate over trying to devise a balanced deficit reduction plan that failed this year and led to sequestration being ordered.
Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said at a joint news conference that their primary goal is to protect DoD from sequestration because the military's $600 billion share of the $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal programs would be devastating to national security.
President Obama has said he would veto any such bills that try to exempt or reduce the impact of sequestration, but the Republican senators want to call his bluff. "I cannot conceive of a commander in chief threatening to veto a bill that would save the Department of Defense from ruin," said Graham.
The senators offered no details on what would be cut to save defense. Kyl said the legislation would draw on existing deficit reduction ideas, including some that were considered by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on which he served, while others would come from the many reports in recent years that have suggested ways to cut spending.
It was unclear how the senators would get enough votes to pass their legislation to avoid a sequester, in light of the fact that it was Congress' failure to pass a deficit reduction plan that led to sequestration in the first place. A key part of their argument will be that the defense budget already faces a previously approved reduction of $450 billion in planned spending over the next decade, and that deeper cuts would be devastating.
Kyl said he hoped to enlist Democrats in his cause, but he did not say whether he expected enough support to override a presidential veto.