Ayotte: Dems using military as ‘bargaining chip’ in fight over cuts

A freshman Republican senator accused the White House and congressional Democrats of using the military as a bargaining chip in a debate over spending cuts. 

"It makes me sick that some in Washington, particularly some of the Senate Democrats want to play, and even our president unfortunately, want to use our military as a bargaining chip," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. 

Ayotte said House and Senate GOP leaders have asked President Obama to come to the table to figure out how to resolve the issue of sequestration, a plan passed by Congress a year ago that would cut $1 trillion in spending over 10 years, including $500 billion from defense. 

Lawmakers have expressed concern over the volatile mix of spending and tax hikes that could put the U.S. economy over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” 

Republicans and Democrats are also at odds on the expiring Bush-era tax rates, with Democrats and the White House looking to extend the lower rates for those couples making below $250,000 a year. Republicans however want the rates extended across the board, a move the White House has threatened to veto to force the wealthier to pay higher rates to offset cuts.

Ayotte, who has been named as a possible vice presidential nominee for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said the choice is not between whether to extend tax breaks for those earning at least $250,000 a year or slashing defense spending. 

"That's not the choice and where is our commander-and-chief on this," she said. 

"Why isn't he right now at the table with members of both sides of the aisle resolving this. He could lead this effort and he has been AWOL on this."

Waiting until after the election would be "undermining our national security and cost nearly 1 million jobs," she said. 

Still, there is unlikely to be enough political will on Capitol Hill to craft a plan with only 100 days before the November elections. 

The White House and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have signaled their support for seeking out different cuts than were agreed to last year during the debt-limit debate that pushed the United States toward default. 

Lawmakers have one week left before leaving Washington until September and they are unlikely to take up any prickly issues prior to the election. 

The Senate on Thursday passed the president's tax plan that would continue cuts for those workers making $250,000 a year or less. Under that proposal, tax breaks would expire for those making above that amount. 

The House will vote this week on extending for a year, all Bush-era tax breaks. 

Ayotte has said that while it is "an honor" to be mentioned on a long list of vice presidential choices for Romney she is focused on serving the people of New Hampshire. She was elected in 2010.