Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) had a battle of words with OMB Director Jeffrey Zients in the House Armed Services Committee today regarding looming automatic defense cuts. This debate is a preview of what we shall see on the national stage this fall's presidential and Congressional races.
The argument between Rep. Forbes and Obama official Zients shows the Obama Administration's firm committment to higher taxes on the American people. Clearly, the drafters of the debt limit deal wanted defense cuts to put pressure on Republicans to hike taxes through the threat of across the board cuts to defense spending.
Some Republicans have gone wobbly on the idea of cutting other programs to pay for the suspension of the defense sequester. Yet most conservatives in the House and Senate are prepared to hold the line against tax increases to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the Obama Administration and liberals in Congress to increase the size of the federal government.
Congressional Democrats are pushing hard for a combination of promised future spending cuts and immediate tax hikes to avert about $600 billion in defense cuts over the next ten years. The plan is to use the defense cuts to force Republicans to compromise themselves on tax policy by violating the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. This pledge is the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that many House and Senate members have signed to promise not to impose tax hikes on the American people.
The Washington Post describes the hearing as "at times highly partisan." The Post describes the automatic cuts as follows:
The automatic cuts were designed to be painful. They were embedded in last year’s deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling as a sword to hold over a special congressional deficit reduction supercommittee. If the committee failed to come up with a bipartisan deal to cut deficits by $1.2 trillion, the budget would face an automatic whack of that amount over 10 years, split evenly between defense and domestic programs.
Now liberals are using that sword to threaten Republicans with a false choice -- accept deep across the board defense cuts or raise taxes. There are other options like Senator Jim Inhofe's (R-OK) Sequestration Prevention Act. The legislation would repeal ObamaCare and block grant Medicare for a savings of $1.1 trillion over ten years. Furthermore, Inhofe's plan would reduce some non-defense discretionary programs, block grant food stamps, reduce the federal workforce, enact some tort reform and repeal global warming related activities. All without a tax hike.
Rep. Forbes asked Zients during the House Armed Services Committee hearing "do you believe it was reasonable to use a draconian method such as sequestration to force Congress to do anything." After some back and forth Zients responded "there are five months remaining for Congress to act. What is holding us up right now is the Republican refusal to have the top 2 percent pay their fair share." In other words, Republicans need to hike taxes or the Obama Administration will slash defense spending. Zients also refused to say where the Obama Administration was planning to cut defense.
Conservatives need to stand strong with Rep. Forbes and Sen. Inhofe to undo the defense sequester, cut waste in the federal budget, and not hike taxes to feed the growing federal government.