Budget Wars ¿ Part I

In what may be the first of many fiscal fights, two Republican congressmen lashed out at the notion that the nation should buy more butter and fewer guns.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was discussing the economic crisis and a second economic stimulus bill with a home-state newspaper when he dropped a bomb – calling for a 25 percent cut to the Pentagon's budget.

Just the suggestion brought a prompt response from two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, which is focused on equipping troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rep. John McHugh of New York and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland are the two lawmakers in line to replace the retiring Rep. Duncan Hunter of California as the committee's Republican.

"Talking about a 25 percent spending reduction in the defense budget with troops on the ground is reckless and, if enacted, could have immediate and long-term consequences for America and those individuals who risk their lives daily to defend our nation," McHugh said. "Rather than talking about dramatic spending reductions, we instead need to ensure that our baseline defense spending provides the necessary equipment, materiel, and force protection for our armed forces."

Bartlett called Frank’s statement "grossly irresponsible."

"A 25 percent cut in defense spending will endanger our troops deployed in harm's way and America's national security for years to come," Bartlett said. "It's even more astonishing considering that congressional Democratic leaders want to increase the deficit by spending twice as much, $300 billion, for a second stimulus package of domestic spending."