Armed Services Republicans urge Ryan, Murray to spare defense spending

Thirty Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are urging the leaders of the House-Senate budget conference to reach a deal that spares Defense spending from sequestration.

The Armed Services Republicans sent a letter on Thursday to House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), where they argued that defense spending should be set — at a minimum — at spending levels above sequestration.

The lawmakers said that the budgets from the House, Senate and Obama administration all set the Pentagon budget at roughly the same level, well above the caps under sequestration.

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“Through this season of fiscal conflict and uncertainty, one position has been consistent — the minimum level of funding that should be provided for National Defense in fiscal year 2014,” wrote the committee members, led by Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

“In his FY14 budget, the president requested a base funding level for National Defense at $552 billion, commensurate with the spending caps identified in the Budget Control Act prior to sequestration.”

Of course, all of the budgets also reverse sequestration in 2014 — Republicans through other spending cuts, and Democrats through new revenues. The current budget impasse exists because each party disagrees with the other’s solution for replacing the sequester.

If sequestration remains on the books, the Pentagon’s 2014 proposed budget would be cut $52 billion under sequestration.

The House-Senate budget conference, which will meet for the first time next week, was tasked with seeking a budget solution after this month’s two-week government shutdown.

The dangers of sequestration to the military has done little to move the budget needle over the past two years since sequester was set in motion, as the two parties have been unwilling to budge over taxes and entitlements.

And while the 30 Armed Services Republicans are clamoring for the sequester to be reversed due to military cuts, some of their Tea Party colleagues in the House have openly cheered the automatic budget cuts to both discretionary and defense spending as the first real spending reductions they’ve won.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), one of the senior Republicans on the committee, noted the disconnected between the Armed Services panel and the rest of the House at a sequester hearing last month.

“Most of us on the committee — some of us will disagree on how we got to sequestration, we disagree on a way forward — but we're at least unified in the fact that we need to do away with sequestration,” Forbes said. “Unfortunately, that's not true for all the leadership in Congress. It's not true for every member outside of this committee.”

The letter makes the case against defense sequester by laying out military officials’ testimony about the havoc the cuts are causing.

“Time and again over the last 24 months, the committee has received testimony that sequestration will be devastating to our Armed Forces, their family members, and the defense industrial base, as well as local communities and the economy,” the GOP lawmakers wrote.

“Continued reductions in funding will bring our military to a force so small that a reassessment of our National Security Strategy would be required,” they said. “We have received compelling testimony that any such revision to our National Security Strategy would result in a strategy inefficient to address the current security environment.”

Thirty of the 34 Republicans on the Armed Services panel signed onto the budget letter. The four Republicans who did not were Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Rich Nugent (Fla.) and Kristi Noem (S.D.).