News Column

GOP Scolds Obama Over Mandatory Defense Cuts

Sept. 19, 2012

Ken Newton

Political elbows flew on Tuesday concerning the looming cuts in defense spending set in motion by the Budget Control Act last year.

Though 202 congressional Republicans voted in favor of the legislation (174 representatives and 28 senators), Missouri Republicans used a conference call to lay the blame for the so-called sequestration at President Obama's feet.

Former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, an adviser to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said Mr. Obama has failed to lead in finding a path away from the scheduled $587 billion in military cuts over the next decade.

"He can't escape his responsibilities by saying, 'Well, the Congress did this and the Congress did that,'" Mr. Talent said during the call. "He's holding the American military hostage and American safety hostage to an economic policy that even his own members wouldn't vote for when he presented his budget."

The Budget Control Act got congressional approval in August 2011 as the federal government tried to avoid a default during a national debt limit debate.

The measure established a "supercommittee" to work out more than $1 trillion in deficit reductions. When that panel failed to reach an agreement, automatic spending cuts were set in motion.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, defended the president last week after House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, accused Mr. Obama of dragging his feet on the sequester.

"So the speaker of the House announcing that he has done his job, when in fact Congress has failed to do its job and that is why the sequester still looms out there, is a rather remarkable statement," Mr. Carney said.

Mr. Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, voted for the Budget Control Act. In this region, U.S. Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri and Lynn Jenkins of Kansas both voted for it.

U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt of Missouri voted for the measure, as did Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran voted against the act.

One Missourian voting against the measure was Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who took part in the Tuesday call with Mr. Talent. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, she said the cuts would damage the military, national security and the Missouri economy.

She said defense spending makes up 20 percent of the national budget but stands to take 50 percent of the planned cuts.

"It will hollow out our forces and be devastating," the Republican lawmaker said. "Now is not the time we need to be cutting our national defense."

She cited a study by George Mason University showed that sequestration would result in 33,611 Missouri jobs.

Source: (c)2012 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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