By Roxana Tiron
November 22, 2011
Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) — Republicans on the U.S. House and Senate defense committees say they’ll work to block $500 billion in defense budget cuts threatened by the failure of the deficit supercommittee to reach agreement yesterday.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he will introduce legislation to prevent the cuts. President Barack Obama said he’d veto any attempt to void the automatic cuts.
“I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military,” Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, a California Republican, said in a statement yesterday.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona said they also were working on a plan to evade the automatic cutback.
“The first responsibility of any government is to provide for the common defense; we will pursue all options to make certain that we continue to fulfill that solemn commitment,” Graham and McCain said in a joint e-mailed statement.
Lawmakers on the bipartisan supercommittee announced yesterday that they failed to reach agreement on a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. Under the law, automatic spending cuts for the Defense Department and other agencies would take effect in 2013.
Obama said yesterday that he would veto any move to avoid the automatic cuts. Lawmakers still have a year to “figure it out” and come up with a deficit reduction plan, he said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pressed lawmakers in a statement “to avoid an easy way out of this crisis,” and pass deficit reduction measures at least equal to the $1.2 trillion that the supercommittee was tasked with finding.
“If Congress fails to act over the next year, the Department of Defense will face devastating, automatic, across- the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation’s defense,” said Panetta. “I have never been more concerned about the ability of Congress to forge common-sense solutions to the nation’s pressing problems.”
Defense companies and their lobbyists will prepare their “playbooks” to fight automatic cuts next year, said Michael Herson, president of American Defense International (ADI), a lobbying and consulting firm in Washington, DC. ADI’s client roster includes Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Atomics, the maker of the Predator drones.