McKeon fires back at Wall Street Journal over sequester

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) returned fire at the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board on Thursday after it accused him of leading an “insurrection” over raising the sequester-level budget caps.

In a letter to the editor, McKeon said the Journal editorial “misses the mark” and was a “significant departure from your prior criticism of the president for allowing these defense cuts.”

McKeon argued that the cuts were dangerous to U.S. national security and said he and other GOP defense hawks want to keep the sequester caps in place by boosting defense spending through cuts in the budget elsewhere.

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“Support for national security and support for the caps are not mutually exclusive,” McKeon wrote. “Even the Republican Study Committee budget alternative kept defense at presequestration levels because it shares my view that sequestration causes real damage to our military.”

The Journal’s editorial board, typically hawkish on defense issues, accused McKeon of leading a “defense rebellion” within the Republican Party because McKeon wants to cancel the defense sequester in 2014.

The Journal said that breaking with the sequester spending caps would be “another act of political masochism, handing budget leverage to Senate Democrats and frustrating the GOP's fiscal conservative base.”

The editorial underscored the tension between Republican defense hawks and the budget hawks in the Tea Party wing of the GOP, who have openly cheered the sequester cuts, including to the Pentagon.

Defense hawks, meanwhile, say the sequester cuts are doing irreparable damage to the military, risking a hollow force and troops unfit to fight.

The editorial also criticized House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and the panel's subcommittee leaders for warnings about the dangers of the sequester cuts in 2014 to national defense.

If sequestration stays on the books, it would cut $20 billion from the Pentagon’s budget in 2014 and would be a $52 billion reduction from the department’s proposed 2014 budget.

McKeon’s committee also passed a Defense authorization bill that was more than $50 billion above the sequester-level spending caps.