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Barack Obama Says Sequestration ‘Will Not Happen,’ Hits Back on Military Spending Attacks

“President Obama’s dismissive comments about the Navy tonight should be concerning for any voter who cares about the safety and security of Americans at home and abroad,” McDonnell said. “His flippant comment about ‘horses and bayonets’ was an insult to every sailor who has put his or her life on the line for our country.”

Republicans were also ramping up their line of attack on sequestration even before the debate was over. Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), issued a statement while the debate was still going on, noting that “the Republican-led House has passed legislation to prevent the damaging defense cuts — the President still doesn’t have a plan to prevent the sequester.”

And Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement that while Romney demonstrated in the debate that he would promote “a strong defense,” Obama “has stood in the way of preventing the automatic military cuts through sequestration.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), however, echoed Obama’s optimism on avoiding the sequester in an interview on CNBC after the debate.

“I can tell you, when the president’s re-elected, I expect ... for him to sit down, even during the lame-duck session, and come up with an approach that’ll avoid the sequester and really move us on a path to reducing the deficit while still pushing this recovery forward,” Durbin said.

Sequestration would cut about $500 billion from military budgets over the next decade. That’s on top of the $487 billion decrease in planned budgets that is already proposed over the same time period.

Romney, for his part, promised that he will “not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure.”

Megan Scully and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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