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A Promise to Undo Cuts to Defense

GOP Senators Want to Avoid Sequestration

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Sens. John McCain and Kelly Ayotte prepare to speak at a news conference Wednesday to decry automatic spending cuts that they say will hurt the military.

Four Senate Republicans concerned about a mandatory $600 billion reduction in defense spending beginning in 2013 said they plan to launch an effort next year that would identify alternative spending cuts in the federal budget.

The proposed defense cuts “would be impossible to achieve without harming our national security in ways that would simply be unacceptable,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said Wednesday at a news conference.

The $600 billion is part of $1.2 trillion in cuts set to take place over 10 years starting in January 2013 as a result of the failure of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was established as part of the deal struck in August to raise the debt ceiling.

The panel was charged with devising and approving a plan by the end of last month to cut at least $1.2 trillion so that Congress could vote on the package. But the super committee’s failure to approve a plan triggered the sequestration process, which will result in automatic, across-the-board cuts divided evenly between security and nonsecurity spending.

Kyl, who was a member of the super committee, said the four Republicans expect to introduce legislation early next year that would begin to identify where in the budget to cut in order to avoid the entire $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts.

“We are going to be introducing the legislation, probably after the break, that will give us a road map toward avoiding the across-the-board sequester but still achieving the necessary spending reductions,” Kyl said.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who also objects to the proposed defense spending cuts, has a news conference scheduled for Thursday during which he is expected to tout similar legislation.

A skeptical Senate Democratic leadership aide said his party would look at any deficit reduction bill but stressed that it would need to be a balanced plan that includes new revenues — the major sticking point that led to the impasse in the super committee.

“The super committee proved that is a very difficult task” to come up with a balanced plan, the leadership aide said.

Nevertheless, Kyl said he expects Senate Democrats to join with Republicans to help protect the military but also to more selectively make cuts in discretionary spending.

“There are other discretionary spending that would also be hit hard across the board as opposed to doing it the easier way, which is a sensible way that would actually reduce spending by enough to avoid the sequester,” Kyl said.

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