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Republicans Will Highlight Defense Sequester

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Kelly Ayotte is part of a group of Republican Senators calling for an examination of the effects the defense sequester would have on military programs.

A group of Senate Republicans are attempting to force Democrats and the White House to deal with the defense sequester and the effect it might have on the nation’s military readiness.

To do that, at least four GOP Senators are vowing to offer an amendment to every bill that moves to the Senate floor in an attempt to secure language requiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to conduct a study by August detailing the effect
$487 billion in automatic spending cuts will have on defense programs once the sequester starts in January.

At the moment the Senators are eyeing the farm bill, currently on the Senate floor, as a legislative vehicle.  

“We need to know,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said off the Senate floor after giving a speech about the cuts.

“One of the problems we have is not only sequestration itself ... but the American people don’t fully understand the impact not only from a national security standpoint but from an economic standpoint,” McCain said on the floor.

Panetta himself has called the potential cuts “devastating” and warned that they could result in “the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the smallest Air Force in its history.”

Those comments and others have served as a rallying call for Republican defense hawks such as McCain.

Under the August 2011 law that raised the debt ceiling, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts over 10 years will be split evenly between security and nonsecurity spending and are set to go into effect starting next year. The cuts were triggered by
the failure of the super committee to reach a deal on a bipartisan deficit reduction plan.

But Democrats and the president have said Republicans need to accept the cuts or broker a deficit reduction deal that includes tax increases.

Republicans “voted for it,” along with Democrats as part of the debt ceiling deal, said a Senate Democratic leadership aide, adding that it was intended to be a painful scenario so that the super committee would be motivated to work together on a deficit reduction plan.

“The way to fix it is to propose a balanced deal” that includes revenues, the aide said. “We are happy to have that conversation.”

“No one is looking forward to this,” the aide continued. “But there is no getting around it without a balanced plan.”

Republicans believe the Defense Department cannot absorb the cuts without compromising national security and are trying to raise awareness of the issue among their colleagues in order to help spur action to replace the proposed cuts.

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