McCain, GOP propose sequestration amendment for farm bill

McCain, the ranking member on Armed Services, said he and every Republican on the committee have filed an amendment to the farm bill on sequestration. The amendment is identical to the one included in the committee’s Defense authorization bill, which asks for details about the effects of the automatic cuts that begin in January 2013.

“I intend to offer this amendment when the Farm Bill is considered, and if it is not adopted on that bill, I will offer it to the next available bill to ensure that this vitally important information is provided to Congress,” McCain said in a statement.

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Throughout the year, Republicans have pressed Pentagon officials about the impact of sequestration, but officials from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on down have said they are not yet planning for the automatic cuts of about $50 billion a year for the next decade.

The Pentagon’s stance has irked GOP members of Congress who are pushing for a quick reversal of the defense cuts, something most people don’t expect to be addressed until after the election.

Last week’s news that war funding was included in the sequestration cuts further added to the Republican outcry, which McCain said Wednesday “may impact our ongoing military commitments and our ability to keep our troops safe.”

While Pentagon officials say that sequestration would be “devastating," they say that there isn’t much planning required for sequestration, because the cuts are done in a mindless, across-the-board manner.

The amendment that McCain and the Republicans are offering passed the Armed Services panel unanimously when the bill was marked up last month.

McCain said the amendment is necessary because “Congress needs an official, detailed assessment from the department on the serious damage to military readiness and the increased risk to our military operations in Afghanistan which would result if sequestration is allowed to occur.”

The report in the amendment does not stop sequestration — McCain has a bill to delay it for one year by cutting federal workers, but that has not attracted any Democratic support — but it would give Defense hawks in Congress more ammo to argue for a change to the automatic cuts.

Of course, McCain might be better off sticking with his original legislative horse. The Defense authorization bill has passed for 50 straight years, while the farm bill could run into problems between the House and Senate.