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GOP senators flex scare tactics over impending military cuts

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14 2012 12:09 p.m. MDT

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., walks near the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. McCain is barnstorming the country to drum up opposition against planned cuts to defense spending.

Alex Brandon, file, Associated Press

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A trio of Republican Senators sounded a shrill voice of warning Monday in Nevada regarding the negative consequences that could result if mandatory cuts to U.S. military spending are permitted to occur as planned Jan. 2.

“Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte visited Nellis Air Force Base before taking their multi-state ‘Preserving America's Strength’ town hall tour to a nearby community college Monday afternoon,” the Associated Press reported. “The tour is focusing on a planned budget sequester that would impose $110 billion in federal spending cuts on Jan. 2. (Sequestration is a series of automatic, across-the-board federal cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn't reach a budget solution in the next few months. First year cuts are split evenly between defense and domestic programs.)

"‘It would undermine our national security for generations, and the world has not become a safer place,’" Ayotte said, citing threats from Iran and elsewhere. "‘This is not a time for us to reduce our forces.’"

Additionally, the Associated Press quoted Graham as saying, “I don't want any more war — it's a terrible thing. But the worst thing about going to war is losing a war."

(To put the proposed cuts in perspective: the federal government’s defense budget for fiscal year 2013 is $868 billion, meaning that $55 billion in cuts would amount to approximately 6.3 percent of overall defense outlays.)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Laura Myers wrote, “About 50 people attended the hour-long town hall, including a contingent of protesters who argued the military is too big and who booed the senators several time as they spoke. The critics said during a question-and-answer period that Pentagon spending should shrink so that more money can be spent on domestic programs, including boosting help for the poor and unemployed.”

The same three senators held similar town-hall-style meetings last week in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire. As Fox News reported, the legislators jointly released a statement explaining the purpose of the “Preserving America’s Strength” meetings: “President Obama's own secretary of defense called the looming defense cuts under budget sequestration 'devastating,' likening them to 'shooting ourselves in the head,’ and yet to date, Congress and the Obama administration have done nothing to stop them from going into effect.”

Despite the senators’ zeal, not all Republicans in Congress agree that reduced military spending would be overly problematic. For example, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett — a senior GOP member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee's chairman — told Politico last week, “The average American out there, by big percentages, wants to cut defense by twice the sequester amount. … We need to have a national dialogue on this. We need to stop being so partisan on this. We need to stop dramatizing the thing.”

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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