GOP plans to undo $600B in defense cuts

Dec. 14, 2011 at 3:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Four U.S. senators, calling it vital to U.S. security, say they will announce a plan to undo $600 billion in defense spending cuts set to start in 13 months.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said they would outline at a noon EST news conference an effort to "replace the defense sequester with other federal savings."

They offered no details.

"Sequestration" is a procedure under which automatic spending cuts are triggered. It happened in this case after leaders of a joint congressional committee failed last month to identify $1.2 trillion to reduce the federal deficit. Roughly half the automatic cuts set to go into effect in January 2013 would come from the Defense Department, with the other half coming from non-defense spending.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the automatic defense cuts would "lead to a hollow force."

President Barack Obama has said he does not support sequestration but will veto any measures that simply try to undo it. Instead, he said he would push Congress to work toward an alternative reduction package.

"I'm confident we can avoid those [severe defense and non-defense budget cuts] by acting responsibly here in Washington with a balanced plan for deficit reduction," Obama told WVEC-TV, Norfolk, Va., Tuesday.

Ayotte Tuesday told a conference hosted by the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative she too was confident "we will be able to build a bipartisan coalition at the end of the day to avoid sequestration."

Democrats have said that without a plan providing for spending cuts and new taxes -- like the one members of the so-called supercommittee tried in vain to produce -- the Pentagon cuts will have to stay.

"The sequester was designed to be painful, and it is," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Nov. 21 after the supercommittee's failure. "But that is the commitment to fiscal responsibility that both parties made to the American people. In the absence of a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by at least as much, I will oppose any efforts to change or roll back the sequester."

A similar set of mandatory cuts is set to hit domestic programs that Democrats support, including education and healthcare.

Democrats have not announced a similar effort to undo or reconfigure those cuts.

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