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Top HASC Democrat: 'Bet That Sequestration Is Going to Stick Around'

Feb. 28, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Rep. Adam Smith does not expect the remaining years of sequester to be reversed or replaced.
Rep. Adam Smith does not expect the remaining years of sequester to be reversed or replaced. (Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the US House Armed Services Committee says sequestration isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the panel’s ranking member, told the “Defense News with Vago Muradian” television show that readers should not bet on Congress replacing the remaining eight years of scheduled sequestration cuts with other deficit-reducing measures.

“If you had to bet, you’d bet that sequestration is going to stick around,” Smith said during a segment of the show slated to air Sunday morning (11 a.m. EST on WJLA-7 in Washington).

Smith long has advocated simply getting rid of all remaining parts of both the defense and domestic sequestration cuts. The way he sees it, the first two years of sequester cuts have slashed the federal deficit by trillions of dollars.

To that end, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote her colleagues this week, saying deficit-paring steps taken to date have cut the deficit by $3.3 trillion.

Pentagon officials and hawkish lawmakers say additional rounds of across-the-board cuts to the military’s annual budget would undermine national security and create a “hollow force” that is not ready to take on a slate of possible missions.

Smith’s answer? “I’d just turn it off.”

Doing that would require 60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House.

The Senate vote might be close because many of the 53 Democrats and two independents that caucus with them have expressed interest in nixing the remaining domestic sequester cuts. And many of those same Democrats also favor ending the defense cuts.

But the GOP-controlled House is another matter.

“There’s not the votes to do that,” Smith said.

For a sequester-repealing bill to pass the House, dozens of Republicans would have to join Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would never allow such a bill to get a floor vote because most members of his caucus covet the additional deficit-cutting future rounds sequester will bring.

Also appearing on the show was Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the panel’s Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee chairman. He did not disagree with Smith’s assessment.

Smith, citing recent conversations with senior military officials, described their descriptions of the remaining sequester cuts as “ugly.”

During the same segment, Smith and Forbes clashed several times over whether the Obama White House has crafted a national defense strategy, and whether it has provided lawmakers ample justification for defense budget cuts. ■

(Editor’s Note: You can also view the segment this Sunday at http://tv.defensenews.com)

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