Becerra: Offset sequester by getting other countries to share military costs

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that one possible idea for offsetting the pending defense cuts under the sequester is to ask that other countries help pay the costs of the U.S. military presence abroad.

Becerra, who is vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that getting other countries to chip in or even closing down overseas military bases altogether are ways that both parties could agree to as a way to avoid reductions in U.S. national security.

"We've become the cop of the world and yet this cop doesn't get paid for his or her services," he told Southern California's KPCC radio.

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"So before we're going to go out there and defend everybody else, let's either have those countries pay us for some of the defense that we're doing of their people, or let's close down some of those bases that we have all over the world if folks aren't going to be grateful that we're out there trying to protect them, rather than cut jobs here in America," he said.

"We can slim down, we can tighten our belt within the military without costing us any security and safety that our people have become accustomed to."

The sequester will require about $55 billion in defense cuts starting next year, which would lead to a 9 percent cut to most defense programs. It would make similar cuts to non-defense programs as well, unless Congress and the White House can reach some new agreement on how to structure the cuts before the end of the year.

Republicans in particular have said steep defense cuts should be avoided. While many Democrats agree, Democrats also want a deal that would replace some of the cuts with higher taxes that they say would help generate more revenue for the government.

Because the GOP disagrees, no agreement has been reached, but Becerra said he's hoping the November election changes the dynamic.

"All we have to do is turn and go in the right direction and we just need to have a collaboration to decide that we can go in the right direction, and as you've seen over these two years Congress has done anything but work to go in the correct direction," he said. "We need to change that. and hopefully the November elections will right the ship again because we can no longer afford to constantly threaten to shut the government down and default on our national debts."

Becerra said that while the Department of Defense could stand some "belt-tightening," he also said the same thing about Medicare, and proposed eliminating the higher reimbursement rate for doctors who provide services under Medicare Advantage.

"We simply said, come down to get parity to what the doctors and hospitals are getting paid, that saves you, believe it or not, over $140 billion and those are the kinds of savings you can extract without cutting benefits and services," he said.

But Becerra also warned that the sequester cuts are indiscriminate because they don't focus on waste or smarter ways to reduce the government. As a result, he said, the sequester would amount to a government decision to divest in America.

"I didn't vote for it the first time we were supposed to vote for the sequester because of that," he said. "It divests in America in a time when we should be investing and doing the things that help build new, good paying jobs."