Politico reported: “After months of tough talk, House Republicans ran away from defense cuts last week — and that spells more trouble now for deficit reduction talks at the White House, already beset by differences over taxes.” It is not exactly right to suggest that they had embraced big defense cuts previously. A Capitol Hill source suggests that huge defense cut numbers were floated by the White House but never embraced by the Republicans.
There is good reason for that. A GOP aide reminds me that the Pentagon has already done its fair share of belt-tightening amid multiple wars. He e-mails to say of defense cuts: “The question of whether or not it’s ‘on the table’ was answered two years ago, when the Obama Administration announced sweeping cuts to 20+ vital weapons programs, including the F-22 Raptor and CG(X) Cruiser.” He continued, “It was answered again when Gates announced further cuts in 2010, and again in 2011 when OMB told him to find even more savings from the defense budget. All this happened while domestic discretionary spending increased by an astounding 20% in the first two years of the Obama administration.”
In short, Democrats angling for more cuts in defense would have some credibility if the defense “savings” had been plowed into debt reduction rather than shoveled back to fuel more domestic spending.
That is not to say the battle is over. As the GOP struggles to fend off tax increases, the White House will no doubt up the ante on defense cuts. (It is all about balance, you see.) But, as the aide comments, “The only question that remains is whether or not Republicans trade away our national security to pay for Obama’s rampant entitlement spending.” So far the answer is no. But stay tuned.