By Erik Wasson - 02/17/13 03:05 PM EST
GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C) and Rand Paul (Ky.) on Sunday highlighted the split within the Republican party on the effect of the looming $85 billion in sequester spending cuts slated to take effect on March 1.
In interviews on "Fox News Sunday" Defense hawk Graham said the cuts would devastate the military, while Tea Party conservative Paul argued that the sequester is not really a cut at all in government spending.
"On his watch we are going to unravel the greatest military in the world,” he said. “Iran is watching us...we are allowing people to be slaughtered in Syria.”
Graham said that the Senate Democratic proposal to replace the sequester with more tailored defense cuts, farm program cuts and tax increases was laughable.
“Let's put Obamacare on the table,” he proposed.
Paul, however, was far more comfortable with allowing sequestration.
He said that while the across-the-board nature of the cuts is not ideal, the cuts are needed.
“Ideally we would have done the right thing and passed appropriation bills... the sequester is sort of a hammer,” said Paul.
But he added that the sequester and 8 years of similar cuts slated to take effect still leave spending on an upward path.
“The sequester is really a reduction in the rate of growth of spending, it is not a real cut in spending,” he said. “Even with the sequester, spending will still rise overall.”
Paul denounced Obama for listing new programs in his State of the Union address. and proposing to pay for them with tax increases. He added that attempts by Obama to paint the GOP as the party of protecting tax breaks for the wealthy were false.
“It is our job to explain to the public big government doesn't help the poor,” he said. “His massive debt causes prices to rise.”
Paul also told "Fox News Sunday" that he would only run for president in 2016 if he can win and that he will not decide on a possible bid until next year.