Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Republican Study Committee and a leading House conservative, is drawing a firm line over looming automatic spending cuts, saying that while slashing the defense budget is undesirable, it is better than nothing.
“I would say the only thing that’s worse than cutting national defense is not having any scheduled cuts at all take place,” the Ohio lawmaker said in a C-SPAN “Newsmakers” interview scheduled to air Sunday. Jordan separately noted he remains adamantly opposed to raising tax rates.
Jordan’s remarks stand in contrast to the warnings from Republican hawks, mostly in the Senate, who have been sounding the alarm that the cuts would be too “devastating” to the Defense Department, in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
But there is no serious movement afoot among Republicans, either in the House or Senate, to simply suspend the cuts in sequestration, which was part of last year’s bipartisan debt ceiling deal and is scheduled to go into effect because last year’s debt-cutting super committee failed to produce a plan.
One senior GOP aide said even senior GOP hawks concede a “straight punt” isn’t on the table. A second aide said only a “small minority” of House Republicans would vote to suspend the cuts without corresponding replacement cuts.
Claude Chafin, a spokesman for House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), said McKeon “has long since lost patience with hypothetical situations, hypothetical solutions, hypothetical cuts and hypothetical revenue raisers. It’s time for someone to put something on paper like the House has,” referring to legislation the chamber passed to replace the defense cuts with deeper cuts to domestic spending.
McKeon, Chafin said, has been pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass “anything” he can out of the Senate, saying differences could be hammered out in a conference committee.
Though most Republicans are aghast at the defense cuts that are scheduled to begin going into effect Jan. 2, suspending them would mean sacrificing most of the progress they made on spending cuts from a drawn-out, polarizing standoff over the debt ceiling last summer.
“Remember what took place last summer in this debt ceiling bill,” Jordan said in the C-SPAN interview. “The day after the debt ceiling agreement passed, the [stock] market dropped over 500 points. Two days later, we got downgraded. A week later, the market had dropped a total of 13,00 points. The super committee that was supposed to solve everything completely fell apart, like many of us figured it would.”
If the sequestration cuts were suspended, “then think about this: The only thing the taxpayers will have really gotten out of that deal last summer is $2.4 trillion more in debt,” Jordan said.
Although suspending the defense cuts by themselves is not an option under serious consideration, defense hawks such as McKeon will likely be much more flexible on what they would trade to eliminate the cuts, leading to tension within the Republican Conference.
In particular, as Jordan said, the right flank of the party didn’t vote for the debt ceiling deal or believe the super committee would work to keep the sequestration cuts from happening.
Some of those conservatives are “baffled at how some of the Members most vocal in calling for a turnoff of the sequester are ones who voted to put the sequester into law in the first place,” the second GOP aide said.