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Frank, Mulvaney push amendment to freeze Pentagon spending

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"How do you do you say, 'We want to cut the FBI's budget by 20 percent, you want to cut the Department of Education by X percent,' but you want to plus up the defense budget?" said Mulvaney. "I think it undermines the severity [of the country's budget woes.]"

On Wednesday, executives from top defense contractors told the House Armed Services Committee that the looming threat of $500 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon would soon have a dramatic impact on employment. Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevenson said his firm alone stands to lose 10,000 employees if the cuts go into effect.

Frank and Mulvaney said some of that could be prevented by more intelligent cuts to the defense budget.

"It's like a geological thing — there are layers and layers and layers" of programs addressing outdated threats, Frank argued.

But both congressmen said the United States also had to re-evaluate its defense priorities. Mulvaney said on the Republican side, there was "a growing group of us that have a war-weariness," while Frank said he believed that in many recent military actions, "all we do is make people angry when we try, and waste money."

That sentiment is likely out of step with party leadership on both sides of the aisle, and it's unclear what kind of traction — if any — the Mulvaney amendment will receive. While Congress and the White House have both said they would prefer to avoid automatic cuts, debate has centered around a demand from President Obama and Democrats that an increase in taxes for the wealthiest Americans be part of an eventual agreement.

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday urged Congress to address the looming "fiscal cliff."

“If Congress doesn’t do that now, it must do that after the election ... the alternative is to ignore [a] problem that’s easily fixable,” Carney said.

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