House GOP budget to avoid sequester of Defense funds

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Carolyn Kaster/AP

House Republicans are planning to pull the defense-spending cuts mandated by sequestration off the table in their version of the budget expected to be released next week, according to two Hill aides.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have stated they want defense spending to be part of a larger budget deal on taxes and spending. The sequester mandates that both defense and discretionary spending will take a hit beginning next January. Defense spending would account for $600 billion of all mandated cuts over 10 years.

Some Republicans not wanting to flirt with national security have said they want to keep defense out of the negotiations surrounding the sequester, which are expected to last until after the November elections. Panetta has stated any further cuts could be “devastating,” but has insisted Congress should negotiate on taxes and spending in a comprehensive way without pulling defense.

The bill is expected to emulate some aspects of a proposal first introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., in December. McKeon’s original bill would delay the first year of defense cuts mandated by the sequester, instead offering an equivalent amount through federal workforce cuts. Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., has introduced a similar measure.

Republican defense leaders have protested that the military was taking the brunt of spending cuts. But by firewalling defense from further cuts, House Republicans would need to pay for those expected cuts another way. At a House Budget Committee hearing, Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Panetta he felt entitlement spending should be on the table.

“With regards to the Budget Control Act, an across-the-board $97 billion discretionary spending cut will be imposed on January 2, 2013, including devastating cuts to our national security,” Ryan said in statement provided to National Journal. “House Republicans are continuing their efforts to reprioritize the savings called for under the Budget Control Act, because our troops and military families shouldn’t pay the price for Washington’s failure to take action.”

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement, “The Speaker and Chairman McKeon are working towards a shared goal: ensuring that we have $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction, but doing it in a way that does not ‘hollow out’ our Armed Forces or jeopardize our national security.”

Republican leaders declined to provide further details.

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