WASHINGTON — Early 2016 GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush offered no fiscal plan to alter existing law so he could implement the Pentagon budget hikes he called for Wednesday.

During a major foreign policy and national security address at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the former Florida governor criticized sequestration and other Obama-era military spending cuts. And he tried to pin the blame on the man he wants to replace as president, Barack Obama.

Bush told a luncheon audience that "engagement is they key" to dealing with a myriad global challenges. He unveiled a mostly vague blueprint for his hawkish foreign policy approach, trotting out his "liberty diplomacy" theme.

One of the few specifics he did call for was an increase in annual US military spending.

Bush noted the United States is projected to spend over 2.4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on military spending, saying he finds that unacceptably low.

But the likely candidate did not lay out the kind of broader fiscal plan that would replace defense cuts on the books into the 2020s with other deficit-reduction items.

Without successfully pushing that kind of legislation through both chambers of Congress, the 2011 Budget Control Act's defense and domestic spending cuts must occur each year through 2021.

Bush's odds of getting such a package through the House, which has beenis projected by most prominent political experts for some time, appear strong.

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But should Democrats take back the Senate, or cut into the Republicans' Democrats' 54-seat majority, getting bipartisan agreement on issues like taxes, domestic entitlement reforms and other issues could prove trickier.

Real Clear Politics, an independent organization, has Bush leading the crowded 2016 GOP field. He holds a slim lead nationally over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 14.2 percent to 11.2 percent, when several major polls are averaged.

The first Republican presidential primary is slated for next January in Iowa.

email: jbennett@defensenews.com

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