CAPITOL HILL: A day after Senate Republicans announced their own plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the national deficit, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon unveiled a plan of his own.
The “Down Payment To Protect National Security Act” calls for a ten percent total cut to the federal workforce spread over 10 years, according to a committee statement released today. “A [10 percent] reduction will be achieved over 10 years by only hiring one federal bureaucrat for every three who retire,” the statement says. The plan will save an estimated $127 billion over the next decade. That money will pay for part of the Pentagon’s $600 billion deficit reduction bill. “Over half of the deficit reduction efforts to date have come out of the military,” McKeon said in the statement. “The troops simply don’t have any more to give. It is time we address our debt crisis sensibly, by literally shrinking the size of government.”
McKeon’s proposal comes on the heels of a Senate GOP plan concocted by Sens Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, John Kyl and Lindsey Graham. Ayotte announced yesterday the group of GOP lawmakers were devising their own “substitute” sequestration plan to get the Pentagon off the debt reduction hook. The Senate bill won’t hit the floor until January, according to Ayotte. It’s unclear when McKeon planned to bring his bill to the House floor for a vote. But during a press conference on Capitol Hill today Ayotte did say senators were working on the basics of the plan now.
Senate GOP plan would include elements of the failed Super Committee’s recommendations, Kyl said during the same press conference. But he didn’t go into specifics on which ones. McCain, who also was at today’s briefing, suggested a federal spending cap of 18 percent of the gross domestic product could be included in the plan but couldn’t clarify if the Pentagon would be exempt. Even if both proposals make it through the Hill, GOP lawmakers will still have to find away around a possible White House veto.
President Obama has all but guaranteed he would shoot down any plan to change the current sequestration strategy. Graham challenged the president’s commander-in-chief credentials over the veto threat at today’s press briefing. He openly questioned the administration’s commitment to national defense by defending a plan that would decimate the Pentagon’s bottom line. McCain and Ayotte also chimed in claiming the $450 billion already being asked of the Defense Department was more than enough.
Last month the Super Committee failed to come up with a plan to trim the $1.2 trillion from government coffers. That failure triggered an automatic, $600 billion across-the-board budget cut to defense spending. The Pentagon is already building in a $450 billion spending cut passed by Congress this summer. Those cuts will also be spread across 10 years, beginning in fiscal 2012. The $450 billion already mandated, plus the $600 billion cut from sequestration means the department is will be staring down a $1 trillion budget cut in the next decade.The idea of putting the Pentagon’s fiscal future in the hands of the Super Committee was “ill conceived,” Kyl — a key member of the failed Super Committee — said. And the U.S. military would now suffer under the current sequestration plan, he added.
Kyl was adamant rescuing national security spending had support from both sides of the aisle. He and others were confident that once their proposal hit the Senate floor for a vote, a large number of Democrats would be voting yes. That may well happen but the odds are certainly stacked against the GOP plan. A special congressional committee under White House mandate couldn’t come up with a politically viable plan after months of work. What chance does a plan drafted by a handful of Republican lawmakers have on Capitol Hill, especially in the face of a real veto threat? Guess we’ll find out next year.