141 House Republicans support repealing defense budget caps

141 House Republicans support repealing defense budget caps
© Greg Nash

More than 140 Republican lawmakers have delivered a letter to House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage How does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE (R-Wis.) calling for a vote to repeal budget caps on defense spending imposed in the 2011 sequester.

“It is clear there is now broad ranging support in both the executive and legislative branches of government for the immediate repeal of defense sequestration,” they wrote in the letter that was publicly released Wednesday. “As President Trump begins to prepare his budget request for fiscal year 2018, it is imperative that we provide him with the ability to fully fund national defense.”

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the letter's organizer, has been circulating it and gathering signatures since January.

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The letter’s signatories come from a wide range of the Republican Party, from defense hawks such as Turner and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to fiscal conservatives like Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

“The sequestration of national defense is a senseless budget tactic that continues to threaten the readiness of our military and our national security,” Turner said in a statement Wednesday. “An overwhelming 141 Members of Congress, meaning the majority of the House of Representatives GOP Conference, support the repeal of defense sequestration to ensure our country’s safety.”

Defense hawks have long complained about the caps set by the Budget Control Act (BCA), saying they damaged the military to the point of crisis.

Fiscal conservatives have been more supportive of the caps, arguing they help control runaway spending.

Trump has called for eliminating the caps for defense. He promised during the campaign to repeal them immediately.

Trump’s proposed $603 billion fiscal 2018 base defense budget is $54 billion above the caps. Defense hawks have pushed for an even higher base defense budget — $640 billion.

The caps could be avoided by putting some of that money in a war fund that's not subject to the caps.

“We must afford our president the ability to restore military readiness and provide him with the necessary tools to protect our interests at home and abroad,” the Republicans wrote in their letter. “Sequestration diminishes our military’s readiness, impedes our ability to deter adversaries effectively, and ravages our defense communities across the country.”

Still, Democrats are unlikely to support repealing the caps on defense without also repealing them for nondefense spending, which would likely doom any effort to lift only the defense caps in the Senate.