By Jeremy Herb
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the on the Committee said what was “most troubling” about the budget was that it did “not even acknowledge the mandatory cuts associated with sequestration in fiscal year '14, much less propose a plan to replace the cuts that can actually pass Congress.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who said he would support a one-year sequester fix Wednesday, endorsed the Republicans’ call for more information on the sequester cuts from the Pentagon.
“If you will let us know when you know what the impact would be of a $52 billion reduction in the budget you've submitted, it will help us, I believe, avoid that outcome,” Levin told Hagel.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also backed McCain's call for the Pentagon to provide details on the cuts, because he said there's no pressure for Congress to fix sequester unless the consequences are known.
Hagel said that the Pentagon was preparing for the reality of sequestration in 2014, and that details of what the cuts would like would be part of the strategic review he has ordered.
“We are going to be facing the reality of a $51 billion or $52 billion cut,” Hagel said. “And we are preparing for that.”
The president’s 2014 budget request has reignited a fight that occurred last year when Republicans criticized the Obama administration for not planning for the sequester cuts.
Some Republicans argued that the Pentagon could have made a stronger case by explaining how bad the cuts would be, but that it did not do so because it was an election year.
The president’s 2014 budget does not ignore sequestration, but averts the cuts through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts that are rejected by Republicans.
The House Republican budget and the Senate Democratic budget also set defense spending at pre-sequester levels, a fact Hagel referenced as he attempted to rebut the criticisms leveled at him on the budget Wednesday.
Of course, those budgets are also not political feasible to pass both chambers and get the president’s signature. And there has been little movement in Congress toward a “grand bargain” that could avert the sequester cuts.
“I'm very worried because Congress is not going to raise taxes to fund this sequester, eliminate this sequester,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said. “And it's been deeply disappointing the Defense Department delayed telling us what those cuts might be.”
Hagel said he the department would tell Congress what the 2014 sequester cuts would look like, although he did not provide a timeline for doing so.
He also said that the 2014 budget would be the last to pretend that sequestration doesn’t exist.
“The FY ‘15 budget that we next present early next year will reflect the reality of whatever the situation is,” Hagel said.