Rep. McKeon rips Obama, Sen. Reid for ignoring sequestration

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on Thursday ripped into President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for failing to try to stop $500 billion in automatic cuts to Defense spending, in his most pointed remarks yet about the threat of sequestration.

McKeon took aim at the Democratic leaders while accepting the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from the National Defense Industrial Association on Thursday.

“The president’s vision of an ‘American Century’ is hollow, dangerous and takes for granted the military strength and power required to protect the homeland, assure our allies and keep our enemies at bay,” McKeon said, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Hill.

But the Armed Services chairman saved his harshest attack for Reid, who earlier this month opposed a House GOP effort to replace sequestration and said defense will have to “bear their share of the burden.”

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“We all know what Senator Reid won’t admit — that he is using cuts to our military as a cynical tool to force his domestic agenda in the Senate,” McKeon said at the awards banquet, which was closed to the public.

“An agenda of increased taxes, increased regulations, and more government programs we don’t want and can’t afford,” McKeon said. “That agenda can’t get passed on the backs of public support, so he is trying to pass it on the backs of our troops.”

The sequestration cuts are one of a number of high-ticket budget items looming at the end of the year. Defense and non-defense discretionary spending will each be cut across-the-board by $500 billion over the next decade beginning in January 2013, unless Congress changes the law.

The cuts were included as part of last year’s Budget Control Act as a punitive measure supposed to push the two sides to a deficit-reduction deal, and they went into effect in November after the supercommittee failed.

Most Democrats and Republicans think sequestration is bad policy, but the two parties disagree about how to reduce the deficit elsewhere. Obama has said he will veto attempts to undo the sequester without the alternative deficit reduction.

The House GOP has passed a plan to replace the defense cuts with spending reductions elsewhere, a plan that’s been rejected by Democrats. House Democrats offered their own replacement using the “Buffett Rule” to tax wealthy earners, but Republicans have said that’s a non-starter.

Democrats say that Republicans have to be willing to accept tax increases as part of a deficit reduction plan, while Republicans say that mandatory spending must be on the table. So far, neither side is budging.

McKeon has legislation that would delay sequestration for one year by cutting the federal workforce 10 percent, but he has yet to attract Democratic support for that proposal.

Most people don’t expect sequestration to get solved until the lame-duck session after the November election, but McKeon has repeatedly warned that would be waiting too long.

Speaking to an audience of defense industry officials Thursday, he said the industry has to begin planning for sequestration now, which will lead to job losses, even if the cuts are eventually reversed.

“Those who believe that a lame duck session of Congress will suddenly come to its senses and resolve sequestration, without damaging our national security, are foolish,” McKeon said.