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Republicans say defense cuts should not be part of super-committee plan

U.S. Capitol

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee Thursday unveiled their single recommendation to the congressional committee tasked with slashing spending--no new defense cuts.

California Republican Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, the panel's chair, said the so-called "Super Committee" must avoid adding more defense cuts to reach their $1.2 trillion dollar deficit reduction goal by November 23rd.

"We have gone overboard on the cuts," McKeon said, warning that defense officials are already scrambling to identify $469 billion in congressionally mandated spending cuts over the next ten years.

McKeon also said it is critical the committee members succeed in order to avoid automatic cuts of up to $500 billion in across the board defense cuts that would go into effect if the super committee fails or if Congress rejects the committee's proposal.

"We've gone past cutting the fat" McKeon said. "We've gone past cutting into the muscle and if these other hits come from the trigger, if the super committee is not able to do their work, and the sequestration cuts in we're into the bone and it's all over."

Sequestration is a policy term for the automatic cuts designed as part of last summer's budget deal as an incentive for the panel to strike an agreement on specific cuts to reduce the deficit since across-the-board cuts would be too painful for both sides.

Freshman Rep. Martha Roby, who voted against the debt ceiling agreement, slammed the whole idea of a trigger, including across-the board defense cuts.

"It is unconscionable that we would hold our military families as an insurance policy in a political debate," she said.

Other members of the committee argued that President Barack Obama should weigh in and make clear that he does not support further defense cuts.

"I think it's important for the president as commander-in-chief to make his view known to members of the super committee on both sides of the aisle and to members of congress on both sides of the aisle," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

"As commander in chief if he believes not another dime in defense out to be cut that is something that we all ought to pay attention to. Including, and maybe especially, members of his own party."

House Armed Services Committee Democrats also released their recommendations today. In a letter to Super Committee members, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, agreed that they should keep their hands out of the defense pot.

Smith wrote that instead of touching the military's budget, "I strongly urge the Joint Select Committee to include significant revenue increases among its recommendations for satisfying deficit-reduction requirements. Including revenues in an overall balanced approach to deficit reduction is the best course of action for the committee."

McKeon said that Republicans would not accept tax increases and called the defense cuts versus tax increases debate a "false choice." He argued it's up to the committee to find a solution by cutting spending on the mandatory spending side of the ledger that includes programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

"I don't think it's our job on this committee to do the super committee's work of solving their problem," McKeon said. "Their problem is to come up with 1.2 trillion in cuts out of entitlements. That was their mandate, that's what they're supposed to do."

The deadline for committees to make recommendations to the Super Committee is tomorrow.

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