In addition to undermining the president’s the “movie made them do it” cover story on the Libya embassy attack, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday let the cat out of the bag on sequestration. The Hill quoted him as saying, “I’ll take whatever the hell deal they can make right now to deal with sequestration.” Now this is odd since the House has already passed a deal, one that actually gets more budget savings than the original Budget Control Act deal. But, Congress — that is the Senate — left town without addressing the issue. Panetta went on a tear: “We need stability. You want a strong national defense for this country? I need to have some stability.”
Now whom could he be talking to? The House did its job. When he hollers, “That’s what I’m asking the Congress to do: Give me some stability with regards to the funding of the Defense Department for the future,” isn’t he underlining that it is Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) who has done nothing on the issue?
But let’s get real. Reid would get this done in a flash if the White House wanted him to. The White House could have a deal by signing onto the House legislation. It is the president who really is to blame because he insists on holding national security hostage to his tax-the-rich obsession.
In that regard Panetta has a sympathetic listener in Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who pushed through the sequestration alternative. Ryan in Lima, Ohio, slammed the cuts. The Columbus Dispatch reported:
Ryan took issue with Obama for attempting to halt production at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, the only facility in the United States where M1 Abrams tanks are made.
Obama has proposed a temporary halt to production there because America’s tank fleet is up to date. The Romney campaign says the move would cost the plant’s 800 workers their jobs.
Before pivoting to his PowerPoint on the debt, Ryan called Obama’s tanks proposal a “budget gimmick” and decried Obama as a president whose “only eagerness to cut spending is in our first and primary responsibility of federal government – national security.”
Romney hit the same message in Virginia yesterday:
What’s Obama’s response? Ryan voted for it, too. Well, yes, rather than incur a default on the debt Ryan capitulated to the White House’s defense sequestration proposal. But he then went out and fixed the problem, just as Panetta has demanded. What is Obama’s excuse, and is the best he can do to claim the Congress went along with his scheme?
Mitt Romney and Ryan are beginning to pound away on this. The campaign should drill down on the issue and maybe even give voters that national security address we’ve been told is coming.