Sen. John McCain said today that he would be part of an effort to “nullify” defense cuts that would begin in 2013 if the super committee fails to reach an agreement to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.
“We will be amongst the first on the floor to nullify that provision,” the Arizona Republican said of the trigger that calls for a $600 billion cut to military programs over a decade if the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction fails to act or Congress fails to pass whatever it produces.
“Congress is not bound by this,” McCain added. “It’s something we passed, we can reverse it.”
McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he didn’t agree with the trigger to begin with.
“I will fight any additional cuts in defense spending,” he said, adding that the Department of Defense can continue to cut down on cost overruns in defense procurement.
McCain spoke after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned against allowing the defense cuts to take effect.
Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin said today that the across-the-board cuts “would be totally unacceptable, not just in defense but in everything else,” and he likened it to a “nuclear weapon.”
But the Michigan Democrat said McCain’s comments were premature and could take some of the pressure off the committee to act.
“We shouldn’t talk about eliminating the trigger while it can serve its purpose,” Levin said. “I don’t think we ought to talk about taking the pressure off. ... It’s a useful threat.”
Super committee member Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has also promised to try to prevent the defense cuts from happening, and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has been vigorously lobbying GOP leaders on the issue as well.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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