One of conservatives’ biggest, and in my view, legitimate objections to the debt-ceiling deal is the potential damage to national security should the super-committee deadlock and result in across-the-board cuts. I asked the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee what he thought of the Republican appointees. Rep. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) responded, “Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell have made excellent choices for the Joint Committee and I want to extend my appreciation to those who will serve on the panel. They have no easy choices ahead of them.” He reminded me that he had raised the red flag about the potential harm to national security and the need to focus on the drivers of the debt: “During negotiations over the Budget Control Act, I encouraged leadership to focus the Joint Committee on entitlement spending and also to include a strong defense voice. Members like Senator Kyl understand well the dangers associated with further cuts to our military and the need to keep the faith with military retirees.” He wants the committee to focus on where the problem is: entitlements. “I am also encouraged that the committee members are well versed in entitlement programs. It is only through reform of this mandatory spending that we can find the savings we need. I will be the first to remind them that additional cuts to the military would come at an unacceptable cost to our national security.”
It remains to be seen whether the super-committee can craft a deal. If not, those across-the-board cuts that deeply concern McKeon will be mandated. You can be certain that McKeon will do his best as the chairman with appropriations authority to implement with care the specific cuts, should it come to that. But with cuts of that magnitude there is just so much he would be able to do. It will be up to Kyl and other champions of a robust defense to make sure we don’t get to that point.