The top Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee signaled he is ready to sacrifice favored items to avoid new Pentagon spending cuts.
“I ... commit to making compromises to doing things I might not otherwise agree to keep this ... from taking place,” the panel’s ranking member, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said Sept. 13 on the Senate floor.
Moments later, McCain told Defense News he is keeping his cards close as sequestration avoidance talks continue on Capitol Hill.
“I don’t have anything specific in mind and I wouldn’t say if I did,” the veteran lawmaker said with a chuckle. “We’ve got to sit down ... and for me to say I’d agree to something before we enter into real negotiations wouldn’t be very wise,” McCain said in a brief interview.
He also reiterated that President Barack Obama should call lawmakers to the White House for meetings on how to avoid the sequester mechanism.
McCain likely will be a key player in efforts to avert $500 billion in cuts to planned Pentagon spending that will take effect Jan. 2 unless lawmakers either pass a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan or some kind of legislation that voids the defense cuts. Another $500 billion would be cut from domestic programs, as well.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Sept. 11 that he and other lawmakers are involved in talks aimed at avoiding the cuts. “Ninety percent of us don’t want [sequestration],” Levin said.
Meantime, McCain sounded pessimistic that the upper chamber will pass a defense authorization bill this year. The House passed its version months ago.
“We’re not going to take up the defense authorization [bill] any time soon,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “The Senate of the United States refuses to take up the National Defense Authorization Act. ... I ask my colleagues: Are we for the first time in 50 years ... not going to pass the National Defense Authorization bill?”