Last Updated:December 20 @ 08:27 am

Democrats use defense cuts to force higher taxes

By Donna Cassata

WASHINGTON (AP) - Warfighters heading to Afghanistan would receive less training while the Navy would be forced to buy fewer ships if lawmakers fail in the next five months to come up with an alternative deficit-reduction plan, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Imploring Congress to act, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the White House's acting budget chief, Jeff Zients, outlined the devastating effect on defense and domestic programs if $110 billion in across-the-board reductions begin on Jan. 2.

That approach "is a blunt, indiscriminate instrument designed to force congressional action on achieving a balanced deficit reduction plan," Zients told the House Armed Services Committee. "It is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction."

Compromise, however, seems highly unlikely before the November election as the issue is caught up in the political fight over taxes and spending. Democrats insist any plan to spare the military include tax increases on high-wage earners; Republicans reject any plan that calls for higher taxes.

The hearing underscored that political reality. The meeting of the typically bipartisan panel quickly degenerated into finger-pointing over who was responsible for last year's budget deal to cut spending and raise the nation's budget authority.

There was little discussion of a solution to the automatic cuts.

In a testy exchange, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., insisted that President Barack Obama has done nothing to address the "atrocities" of the impending cuts.

Zients pointed out that Congress wrote the law calling for the automatic cuts and has five months to act. "What's holding it up is the Republican refusal to make the top 2 percent pay their fair share" in taxes, he said.

Carter said military personnel would be exempt from the automatic cuts, but every other military account would be affected, from weapons to the number of hours commissaries operate to potential furloughs.

"Some later-deploying units (including some deploying to Afghanistan) could receive less training, especially in the Army and Marine Corps," Carter said. "Under some circumstances, this reduced training could impact their ability to respond to a new contingency, should one occur."

In the three months to the election, Republicans are using the looming reductions in military spending as a political cudgel against Obama, arguing that the commander in chief is willing to risk the nation's security as he uses the leverage in the budget showdown with Congress. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has echoed GOP lawmakers' criticism.

Democrats counter that Republicans who voted for the cuts are trying to wriggle out of last August's deficit-cutting agreement and they must consider tax increases as part of any congressional compromise to stave off reductions.

Twenty-two Republicans on the committee, including the chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, and 18 Democrats voted for the cuts. Thirteen committee Republicans and seven Democrats, including ranking member Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, opposed them.

Raising the political stakes, GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina spent two days in some of the most contested presidential states warning of the impact of the cuts on local businesses and jobs. They demanded that Obama negotiate with Republicans and Democrats to work out a solution.

Responding to the announcement sparing personnel, the three expressed frustration with the administration's handling of the issue.

"Rather than coming to the table with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to finally address the issue of budget sequestration, the Obama administration is flailing around," they said, in an attempt to make the cutting "look less devastating than it actually is. Today's announcement increases the impact of these arbitrary cuts on the readiness of our armed forces."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., noted that there are "a few Republicans wandering around the country stirring up things" on the looking cuts, and he urged the lawmakers to try to persuade other Republicans to back tax increases.

Major defense contractors are wary of the impending cuts and debating whether they need to advise employees 60 days in advance of possible layoffs. That would be four days before the election. A law says those notices would have to go out ahead of time.

The Labor Department, however, said Monday that federal contractors do not have to warn their employees about potential layoffs from the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts due to kick in Jan. 2. The guidance letter said it would be "inappropriate" for employers to send such warnings because it is still speculative if and where the cuts might occur.

The White House told agency officials Tuesday to "continue normal spending and operations" since more than five months remain for Congress to act to avert the automatic cuts.

According to a U.S. government official, the automatic budget cuts would slash about 10,000 jobs within the intelligence community. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about numbers that have not been released.

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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5 Comments

  1. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    August 1, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    the main job of our federal government is national defense.
    not national healthcare,not national welfare,not national foodstamps,not national amnesty, and not national pro gay,pro muslim and most definateley not ANTI CHRISTIAN.

    FIRE THEM ALL IN NOVEMBER.

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    • cynicalobserverComment by cynicalobserver
      August 1, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

      Yes cutting government waste is the last thing the Democrats want to cut

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    • KBBComment by KBB
      August 4, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

      Actually, this is the very strategy Obama has used to raise taxes and re-distribute wealth inside AND outside of America. He has created policies that have drained the resources of the U.S. and put us deeply into debt. Then, he turns to us and says taxes have to be raised to “pay down the deficit”! Who can argue with that?! Brilliant strategy taken right from Cloward & Piven. It’s the same tactic as the old saying, “don’t ask for permission. Just do it and apologize afterwards.”

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  2. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    August 1, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

    It goes even deeper. Not a day goes by without news of yet another multi-million dollar aid package to yet another african country. Of course those are not just direct aid to the countries involved, they include multi-million dollar packages to contractors whose job will be to ‘teach’ those countries how to use the money.

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  3. JDZComment by JDZ
    August 1, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    The Democrats remind me of little barky bulldogs who think they are bigger then they really are and when they grab ahold of something they just will not let go even if it is not going their way. They are obsessed with class warfare and raising taxes on American families who make more then $250,000 a year. They know that this would not be good for the economy, but they want the government to have more of taxpayer money to spend or use in their wealth redistribution policies. They just keep banging on raising taxes any way they can even including slipping 31 new tax increases in the Obamacare legislation and not exposing them when they forced the legislation through without giving anyone time to actually study the impact of the legislation.

    They keep trying to depict Republicans as on the side of wealthy taxpayers even though the Dems have all kinds of wealthy friends who attend their $50,000 per plate fundraisers. The truth of the matter is that Republicans always take the heat for taxpayers and get very little credit for it.

    This argument about military spending is going to blow up in Obama’s face because the American public at large understands the need for a strong national defense and is a top priority that we expect our government to insure. The use of our national defense as a political football by the Obama administration is not a smart thing to do and is being added to the list of negatives of this administration.

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