House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., suggests any legislation authorizing US President Barack Obama to use force against Syria also should exempt the Pentagon from roughly $52 billion in budget cuts next year under the mandatory, automatic budget mechanism called sequestration.
McKeon argues that sequestration is crimping the military capabilities that the US likely would want to use in Syria and other hot spots in a still highly volatile world. But he talks as if sequestration suddenly dropped in out of the blue to paralyze the federal budget process.
Not so. Lawmakers turned to this mindless policy because they could not reach consensus on spending priorities, and so settled for taking 10 percent off the top of every federal budget account over 10 years starting this year. It was an admission of abject failure of a core duty of Congress: Prioritizing and managing the nation’s finances.
Using sequestration to pull the debate over Syria into the sinkhole of domestic politics would double down on that failure. The US response to the atrocities of the Assad regime is too important to become bogged down in a budget fiasco Congress created — and can undo.
Lawmakers, Obama and national security leaders owe it to the nation to first hammer out a Syria strategy based on national security interests, not partisan politics. Then lawmakers should repeal sequestration and deliver a budget that sets clear spending priorities, including military funding that ensures national security in the near and long terms.
This will require Congress to return to the golden days of yore — when the legislative branch actually did its job.