McKeon bill would undo first year of automatic cuts

McKeon said his bill would help give some “breathing room before we decimate our military.”

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“Let’s put this back at least a year, we pay for it, and give some breathing room and time to think about this,” McKeon said.

McKeon’s legislation is the first concrete plan to stop some of the sequestration cuts since they were triggered when the supercommittee failed last month.

This week, four Republican senators, including Armed Services ranking member Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), said they would announce their own plan to undo the defense cuts early next year. McKeon said House and Senate Republicans are planning to work together to change the sequestration.

But McKeon’s bill got a cold reception from House Democrats, who say that any reversal of the automatic cuts must include an increase in revenues. McKeon said he hasn’t gotten any Democrats to sign onto his legislation.

McKeon argued that defense spending is already taking a hit in the debt-limit deal, as the bill’s budget caps will cut defense budgets by $489 billion over the next decade.

“All dollars are not the same,” said Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) at Thursday’s press conference.

Congress has a year to change the sequestration cuts before they kick in January 2013. Many are predicting that the cuts will not be altered until after the 2012 elections in November.

Democrats said Thursday that many Republicans, including McKeon, signed off on the debt-limit deal in August and have to deal with the consequences.

West, who also voted for the debt-ceiling increase, said that he didn’t want “this nuclear option hung over our heads” in the August debt deal, but that now it needed to be changed.

McKeon’s plan would undo first-year sequestration cuts for both defense and non-defense spending, at a total of $55 billion each.