The Gang of Six and some speechifying over the last week or so by both House and Senate members (not to mention President Obama’s willingness to slash defense budgets regardless of the additional demands he is placing on our armed service) suggested that defense could be on the chopping block. But advocates of a strong military with ample funding were comforted today and should thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for rallying Republicans.
Reid’s proposal to cut more than $880 billion in defense whetted the appetite of the left and sent off alarm bells on the right. Earlier today House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put out a statement that included this:
Yesterday, the House passed the Budget Control Act, legislation that includes real spending cuts and budget forms that — in stark contrast to Sen. Reid’s plan — will ensure our troops and military commanders have what they need to carry out their missions at home and abroad. In a recent post on National Review Online, Foreign Policy Initiative Executive Director Jamie Fly notes that “by focusing on the real drivers of our deficit,” the House Republican plan “strengthens, not weakens, our national security.”
With the prospect of a job-crushing default just days away — and Sen. Reid’s plan dead on arrival in the House (and possibly the Senate) — it is time for Democrats in the Senate to get serious and pass the Budget Control Act to begin putting America on a more sustainable fiscal path without compromising our national security.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) blasted the severe cuts in defense in a midday news conference. The Hill reported:
Reid’s plan “would give the president full freedom to continue his domestic spending spree, while doing nothing to address our out of control deficit,” McKeon said in a statement released Saturday. “It makes insignificant reforms to the real driver of our debt, entitlement programs, while hacking away at the dwindling resources needed by our armed forces to keep America safe.”
Defense analysts question Reid’s assumed war savings, saying his approach leans on shaky presumptions about how much hard-to-predict military operations will cost.
McKeon and other pro-defense Republicans said they would even object to Boehner’s defense cuts. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was even more animated, replaying a favorite criticism of Democrats of President George W. Bush (“It reminded me of a time when I deployed to Iraq in 2003 and we did not have enough body armor so I had to lend my body armor to my driver. Thank God when he got shot in the chest he had the right type of body armor that ricocheted that bullet off into his arm. I am not going to turn my back on the men and women [in the military].”)
And yesterday Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a similar defense of national security spending. (“The Reid bill guts defense — I mean guts it — and leaves domestic spending alone.. . . Ours doesn’t do that.”)
It would be a win for conservatives to turn back the Reid bill. And it would be triumph of common sense and responsible national security policy if one of those reasons was his irresponsible defense cuts.