Ayotte: Defense cuts are ‘sleeper’ issue in presidential race


Ayotte is a prominent backer of Mitt Romney, and is often mentioned as a potential running mate for the former governor. 

Romney is attacking the White House's economic record, claiming the country is fiscally worse off now compared to when Obama took office in 2008. 

The problems in the economy are only going to get worse if the automatic defense cuts imposed under sequestration go into effect later this year, Ayotte argued. 

Key battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania stand to lose a total of 54,000 defense-related jobs, as companies look to pare back their expenditures in anticipation of DOD budget cuts, Ayotte said.

Nearly 1.2 million jobs could be cut if sequestration goes into place, bumping the national unemployment rate by 0.7 percent, according to estimates from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued last Thursday. 

Administration officials have challenged Congress to "do its job" and prevent the automatic defense spending cuts from becoming reality. 

"Congress has time to act to avoid [sequestration] by passing balanced deficit reduction," acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jeffery Zients said in a letter to House Republicans on June 15.

"Should it get to a point where it appears Congress will not do its job ... let me assure you that OMB, DOD and the entire administration will be prepared," Zients wrote.

The Senate took a step toward that goal last Thursday, crafting a bipartisan agreement to force the White House to issue multiple reports on the impact of the automatic cuts set to hit in January. 

Defense lawmakers in the House and Senate are now planning to assemble a slew of working groups as part of an effort to craft a bipartisan alternative to sequestration that both chambers can pass, according to Ayotte. 

"I see that as the [main] step forward right now," Ayotte said of the planned House-Senate working groups.