CAPITOL HILL: House and Senate Republicans will team up on pending legislation to spare the Defense Department from a potential $1 trillion budget cut, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said today.
McKeon has been in contact with Senate counterparts who are pitching similar plan to clear the looming $600 billion budget cut off the Pentagon’s books, he said during today’s press conference on Capitol Hill. The Senate GOP announced this week they had begun drafting a “substitute” deficit reduction plan to counter the current sequestration plan. The effort is being spearheaded by Sens John Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte. The Senate bill will likely not be ready until January. Meanwhile, McKeon dropped his version of the plan late last night.
The McKeon plan dubbed the “Down Payment To Protect National Security Act” will impose a ten percent total cut to the federal workforce spread over 10 years. The plan will save an estimated $127 billion over the next decade. McKeon’s plan will not erase the $600 billion defense budget cut triggered by congressional Super Committee’s failure to trim $1.2 trillion from the national debt. But the plan will delay when those cuts go into effect, McKeon explained. The defense cuts are scheduled to begin in fiscal 2013. Under McKeon’s plan those cuts will go into effect in fiscal 2014. The move will give the department “a little bit of breathing room” to plan ahead for the reductions, McKeon explained. The Senate plan is a bit more ambitious. It will look to move the entire $600 billion cut from the Pentagon and move it to other areas of the budget. But Senate lawmakers were less than forthcoming on how exactly they planned to get that done.
Republican lawmakers had discussed possible areas of cooperation between the two bills earlier this month, McKeon explained. But with the current legislative calendar coming quickly to a close and a defense authorization bill that has yet to be passed, McKeon said the two groups just ran out of time. However he did note that both factions would likely come together next year when the Senate bill is introduced.
McKeon admitted that his bill does not have any support from House Democrats. Any help McKeon could have gotten from the other side of the aisle has been effectively frozen by the White House. The Obama administration has said it will veto any alternatives to the original sequestration plan. That threat virtually guarantees House Democrats will fall in lockstep with the administration, McKeon said. On the Senate side, Kyl was adamant that once their proposal goes up for a vote, a large number of Democrats would be voting yes.
The Pentagon is already building in a $450 billion spending cut passed by Congress this summer. The additional $600 billion cut from sequestration means the department ‘s deficit reduction bill will top $1 trillion. To stave off a cut like that, Republicans are going to need all the help they can get.