Biden tells vets GOP using ‘scare tactics’ in fight over defense cuts

Vice President Joe Biden pledged to fight for veterans' benefits and blamed looming sequestration cuts on House Republicans in an address to the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Nevada on Saturday.

Biden accused the GOP of "using scare tactics now to pass the buck when it comes to defense spending." 

The vice president also laid the blame for the impending defense cuts on Republicans, saying they had insisted on last August’s plan to create a supercommittee and force automatic cuts  if they couldn't find agreement rather than focusing on a serious attempt at bipartisan deficit reduction.

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"Our Republican friends in Congress don't want you to know now that they supported this thing called sequestration," he said. "I said 'guys, this ain't going to work.' Well guess what? They met. They talked. They argued. They did nothing. They didn't reach a compromise."

Biden said he'd made sure that veterans' benefits were kept out of the cuts and that the only reason a deficit-reduction deal didn't get done at the time was because Republicans refused to consider rolling back former President George W. Bush's-tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

"Now those same guys who were talking me into 'let us do it, let us do this thing called sequestration,' they've never heard of it. They all voted for it," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, they say they don't want to see the same cuts that they signed onto… they continue to play brinksmanship, just like they did last summer when they brought us to the edge of defaulting on our debt."

Congress and the White House both hope to avoid the $1 trillion in cuts to defense and domestic programs over the next decade. The cuts coupled with the scheduled expiration of the lower Bush-era tax rates in January has economists warning that the nation faces a “fiscal cliff.”

But while both parties hope to avert sequestration, they are at an impasse on a solution. 

The White House is calling for extending the Bush-tax rates on those who make less than $250,000 a year, with the wealthy paying more to help offset the sequester cuts.

Republicans though want an extension of rates for all incomes across-the-board, rebuffing Democratic claims that the wealthy should pay a higher rate. GOP lawmakers say they fear increasing taxes on anyone would hit small business and weaken a still recovering economy.

Both parties are looking to make the $1 trillion in sequester cuts a campaign issue. The fight over sequestration could play a key role in states with many active duty service members and veterans, including Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Florida.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week accused Obama of seeking to hide the impact of defense industry job losses from sequestration until after the election. 

Defense firms have warned they could issue thousands of layoff notices in November, just before the election, if there is no deal in place to avoid sequestration. 

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hit the road last week to rip Democrats for the cuts and warn of the economic hit sequestration would bring.

On Friday, Mitt Romney said "the idea of massive cuts to our military is a terrible idea," and accused Obama of failing to lead on deficit reduction and tax reform, knocking him for not pursuing more aggressively a plan based on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction model.