Senior Dem: Kyl threat on supercommittee ‘not helpful’

A senior House Democrat on Friday was critical of a threat by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to walk away from the supercommittee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts.

“It's not helpful,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told The Hill following a morning speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I hope we can stay together and keep talking, rather than making threats on the first day,” Smith said.

Kyl issued the threat on Thursday, just minutes after the bipartisan supercommittee had wrapped up its first public hearing.

The August debt deal was made possible, in part, because it requires $350 billion in cuts over a decade to national security agency budgets, including the Pentagon's.

When approached about serving on the special panel, Kyl said he immediately told GOP leaders, “I’m off the committee” if further military cuts are on the table.

“We're not going there,” Kyl said. “Defense has given enough already.”

Pro-defense Republicans like Kyl want the special committee to focus almost exclusively on cuts to domestic entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Kyl told The Hill on Thursday he would vote against any package the supercommittee comes up with that includes any further Pentagon cuts.

Should the panel fail to reach an accord on a final package, several triggers would be enacted, including one that would force $600 billion in cuts through 2023 on the Pentagon and other national security agencies.

Pro-defense Democrats like Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) say the Pentagon budget must be on the table, as long as additional cuts are informed by a new national security strategy.

Those Democrats said this week that the only way to reach the $1.2 trillion target is through a mix of entitlement program reforms, new federal revenues and possible national security spending reductions.

Without a mixed approach, the portion of the federal budget that includes the Pentagon would be "devastated," Smith said during his speech on Friday.

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