He also said the U.S. should shut down some of the dozens of military bases around the country. "Do we need this kind of military footprint?" he asked. "I don't think so."

Ellison's comments frame some of the questions that the deficit-reduction supercommittee is facing with a little more than a week left before it must put forward a plan to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. The panel's failure would trigger that amount in automatic cuts, split between defense and civilian spending, beginning in 2013.

The prospect of these cuts has already led some members to talk openly about using much of next year to roll back the triggers Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (R-Ariz.) has said he would fight defense cuts, citing comments from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that a $600 billion cut over 10 years would hollow out the U.S. military.