Are Republicans finally serious about defense cuts?

defense spending

Last year, Republicans in Congress strongly resisted cuts to defense spending, despite voting for the sequester, which would reduce defense outlays by $400 billions over the next 10 years. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012, frequently made calls to undo the sequester during his campaign.

But after being taken to the shed during “fiscal cliff” negotiations and the subsequent deal reached, Politico notes that House Republicans now seem to be looking seriously at letting the sequester happen, including the defense cuts.

On a hot July night six months ago, 89 House Republicans joined more dovish Democrats to do the unusual for Washington: cut $1.1 billion from the GOP’s proposed budget for defense in 2013.

Then came Hurricane Sandy and the New Year’s Day tax bill, and as many as 157 House Republicans voted Jan. 15 to endorse a much bigger cut, taking nearly $10 billion from the Pentagon to help pay for disaster aid. It was a huge swing by any measure and one followed this week by a Monday night Senate vote in which the overwhelming majority of Republicans endorsed their own across-the-board defense cut worth tens of billions of dollars over the next nine years.

Welcome to the new “dare you, double dare you” school of deficit politics — just a taste of what’s to come March 1 when much deeper spending cuts take effect under the sequester mechanism dictated by the 2011 debt accords.

House Republicans seem determined to let the cuts take effect if only as payback to President Barack Obama for humiliating them over taxes.

There was a thought that Republicans would try to deal over the sequester to try to prevent the defense cuts from going into a effect. There signs of that happening. However, that sentiment has obviously shifted.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone is happy about it. Politico quotes Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who one again criticized those in his party who are seeking to roll back spending. McCain said, “If we’re going to make cuts in defense, I just don’t think they should be across the board,” adding, “We are seeing in the Republican Party what we have seen for a long time to some degree. Isolationism. Fortress America. Don’t spend money on defense, and part of that is a backlash against waste and mismanagement.”

First of all, those of us who believe that government spending has to be cut believe so because we obviously can’t maintain the levels of spending we’ve seen over the last several years. Defense spending should be on the table. That’s not isolationism, a term that McCain used in a blatantly dishonest way; it’s fiscal conservatism.

The other point is that specific or precise cuts to defense spending never really seem to happen. An across the board spending cut may be a tough pill to swallow, but it may be the only thing we get in terms of reducing spending.

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