Politics

McCain Says ‘Idiots’ Supporting a CR Would Benefit Putin

Armed Services chairman wants full defense spending bill done this year

Arizona Sen. John McCain said supporters of a continuing resolution to fund the government through March of next year are “harming the military and will do great damage to the military.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain thinks colleagues pushing for a stopgap spending bill through next March are “idiots.”

The Arizona Republican said a sprawling defense policy bill being negotiated would have limited utility “if these idiots say they want to go for the continuing resolution.”

McCain and other leaders have continued to work on a fiscal 2017 defense authorization package that sets policy but does not provide the actual funding for national security accounts. The money comes either through a stopgap appropriations bill or a more comprehensive omnibus spending bill.

“They’re harming the military and will do great damage to the military and our ability to defend the nation,” an animated McCain said of backers of the short-term continuing resolution. “That’s why they’re idiots.”

“I’ll blame whoever it is that says we’ve got to do a continuing resolution,” he told reporters.

Earlier Thursday, House Republicans announced their intent to advance a funding measure through March 31 of next year. They also met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence. The presidential transition team of Donald Trump has been reported to be in agreement with the House conservatives who had pushed for a short-term spending approach.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told reporters that Speaker Paul D. Ryan was in touch with the incoming administration on the government funding issue.

“Whatever the House can pass, we’ll pass over here,” Cornyn said.

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But McCain said Thursday that he thought such a move would undermine the Pentagon.

“The president of the United States-elect has said over and over we need to spend more money on defense, we need to build up our defenses,” McCain said. “So what we’re going to do is what is, in effect, a cut of some $12 billion.”

Based on a floor speech that preceded the comments, the $12 billion would be an annualized reduction.

McCain spoke with reporters after the speech in which he delivered specific warnings against a “clean” CR that would not include emergency supplemental funding requested by President Barack Obama.

He also said a CR could be a boon to Russia, an area of particular concern to Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, considering Trump’s more conciliatory tone toward the country.

“As Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to menace our NATO allies, our military would not be able to carry out the expansion of the European Reassurance Initiative, which is essential to deterring Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” McCain said on the Senate floor.

McCain confirmed that he and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham will soon be traveling to Eastern Europe to meet with allies in the region.

“It’s important that we sit down with them and have conversations and find out what their challenges are,” McCain said. “Of course, there’s panic. Of course, there’s concern. The government of Estonia just went pro-Russia.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.