WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain says a large group of senators are discussing plans to avert additional across-the-board Pentagon budget cuts.
Among senators, there are "all kinds of negotiations," the Arizona Republican, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters Tuesday.
"There is a group of members — Republican and Democrat — on the Armed Services Committee that are coming and meeting and talking about it," he said. "There's a whole lot of people who are discussing it."
McCain told reporters he will do "whatever it takes to avert sequester on defense."
"I will not agree to any budget that does not stop sequestration," he said. "We just had testimony this morning that will put the lives of American men and women in uniform in danger if we continue with sequestration.
"I would be glad to listen to any proposals," McCain said.
Sequestration was first etched into stone by the 2011 Budget Control Act after a subsequent bipartisan supercommittee failed to agree to a massive federal deficit-reduction plan.
Since then, numerous efforts like the one described by McCain have gone nowhere.
Notably, the leadership of the House and Senate Budget committees have not listed increasing defense spending as a major priority for their coming 2016 budget resolution.
And House and Senate leaders also have been mum about addressing sequestration during this congressional session. The lone vocal proponents of doing so are members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
During a Feb. 25 HASC hearing, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., asked several defense analysts to provide advice on how they should explain sequestration's impact on the military to non-defense-minded colleagues.
"I'm just telling you, our colleagues don't get it," he McCain said. "They really think they're working and they don't see the harm, and this is dangerous."
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Budget and Armed Services committees, said "tons" of talks are ongoing about sequestration.
"You're going to see committee amendments and floor amendments to deal with sequestration," he said. Kaine said "Our fundamental position" is "as much sequester relief in both accounts — and there are Republicans who agree with us."