Pro-military Republicans continue criticizing President Barack Obama over pending budget cuts, and one is “stunned” the commander in chief is not directly working to void them.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., is taking umbrage with a Feb. 8 White House fact sheet on the so-called sequestration cuts that did not mention the pending $500 billion, 10-year defense cuts set to kick in March 1.
The White House fact sheet focused mainly on the broader economic impacts of the defense cuts and an equal amount of cuts to planned domestic spending.
“I wouldn’t downplay those important impacts, but I was stunned at the president’s silence on national security risks,” McKeon said in a statement, “and I am frustrated that he continues to look to our men and women in uniform to pay the cost of America’s debt crisis.”
The military already is taking steps to cut costs as it prepares for the cuts to planned spending, and threatening an array of other moves that McKeon and other hawkish lawmakers say would “hollow out” the military and make America less safe. (Some defense experts dispute those charges, arguing the full sequester cut would be a small amount when considering the annual DoD budget is projected to exceed $500 billion through 2023.)
"There was not one mention of the military, which is half of sequester's cuts, in the White House's fact sheet,” McKeon said. “I don't know which is worse, the deafening silence from the White House or the tone-deafness about sequester's impact on national security.”
McKeon spokesman Claude Chafin said the HASC chairman has “expressed” his opposition to additional defense cuts to Boehner. It will be up to Boehner, not McKeon, to negotiate with Obama and congressional Democrats in coming weeks as both sides look for a way to avoid or delay the cuts to planned defense and domestic spending.
The trouble is Obama says a “balanced” plan featuring federal cuts and new revenues is best; Republicans want to turn off the sequester by replacing them with just other cuts. And it remains unclear whether Boehner and ultra-conservative House Republicans feel as strongly about the defense cuts as McKeon and House hawks.
The HASC chairman also panned a White House plan floated this week by Obama’s press secretary.
“The deal that he put forward to Speaker Boehner in December, which, unfortunately, the speaker walked away from, remains on the table,” Jay Carney said during a Feb. 5 press briefing.
Sources at that time said Obama had floated about $100 billion in additional cuts to projected national defense spending as part of a bigger deficit-reduction proposal.
But one senior House GOP source said Feb. 8 that Obama is proposing $250 billion in new defense cuts as part of a broader deficit-paring plan.
That just won’t do, the senior House GOP source said.
“If you do the full math, it’s $250 billion out of defense,” said the senior House GOP aide. “And at this point — if you do $250 billion more — you might as well do the $500 billion from the sequester, because you would have already hollowed out defense.”