By Jeremy Herb
Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee made one last plea to reverse sequestration on Friday as the cuts were set to take effect at the end of the day.
Nine members of the committee, led by Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), held a press conference at the Capitol on Friday while House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other congressional leaders were meeting with President Obama at the White House.
“I have never in my lifetime seen such a lack of leadership and truth-telling emanating from the White House and from our commander in chief,” McKeon said.
The Armed Services members held their press conference in a nearly empty Capitol on Friday — both the House and Senate recessed for the week on Thursday — sounding the alarm they’ve been warning about the danger of the cuts for more than a year.
So far, however, the message that sequestration will hurt the military has not been able to stop the across-the-board cuts in Congress, and many Republicans have said in recent weeks they support the cuts.
“We know the problem, and we're trying to reach out to all of our colleagues to make sure they understand it too. But that's a process that takes time,” McKeon said.
The chairman also said the lawmakers’ “megaphone” in Congress has not connected with the public well enough. The GOP Armed Services lawmakers complained that the Pentagon’s lack of planning has hampered their efforts in getting the message out because there weren't specifics to point to.
“We have not reached the majority of people,” McKeon said. “I saw a poll that said a few weeks ago, only 38 percent of Americans knew what sequestration was. And I would guarantee you that out of the 38 percent, a very, very small portion understands what the real impacts will be.”
While several lawmakers said they had solutions to solve the crisis, none was willing to budge on accepting new revenues as part of a deal, which Obama and Democrats are demanding.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also said Friday that revenues would not be part of a deal.
“We just passed $600 billion of tax increases just a few weeks ago. Probably many of us voted for that,” McKeon said. “Did we want it? No, but the president's talked about a balanced approach, and his balanced approach is increase taxes, cut our national security, cut defense.”
McKeon said, as he has for more than a year, that he regrets voting for the Budget Control Act that started sequestration. But he defended Boehner’s role in his negotiations with the president.
“Boehner has worked his heart out trying to deal with this president. And as [Washington Post reporter Bob] Woodward pointed out the president has moved the goalposts,” McKeon said after the press conference. “At the end of the day, if you can’t get the president to focus on what’s the real problem, nothing happens.”