A couple things of note this week on the national defense front:
First, the House passed three bipartisan pieces of legislation related to defense. The first was the annual Defense Appropriations bill funding our military for the next year. It passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 326-90. This is noteworthy, because despite the broad consensus, the Senate has made it clear that they are not going to vote on a single one of the appropriations bills this year -- not even for our military.
Second, the House included and passed an amendment to the appropriations bill blocking an increase in enrollment fees for TRICARE. Our move to block that increase cannot take effect unless the Senate acts.
Third, and maybe most crucially, the House passed legislation officially calling on the President to explain what his plans are in the event that sequestration goes into effect. For the background on this, remember a year ago when the so-called "supercommittee" failed to find a bipartisan and workable solution for deficit reduction. When the failed, it trigged the so-called sequestration of another half a trillion dollars in defense cuts.
There is serious concern on both sides of the aisle about what these cuts will mean for our military. Estimates have suggested that at minimum 100,000 of our troops will lose their jobs. On top of that, at minimum, we will lose 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the state of Florida alone. My concern is that our force will be severely hollowed out. Our ground forces will be at their smallest level since 1940. Our Navy will shrink to a size we haven't seen since 1915 and we will literally have the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.
No administration has ever been very good at predicting what our next national emergency will be. Maintaining our flexibility, and perhaps more important our deterrent is critical for the safety of this country and the world.
Throughout these ongoing budget debates, I keep coming back to one fundamental question over and over again: When we look at the Constitution, what are the core responsibilities of the federal government (versus the states) and what do we need to do to ensure those federal responsibilities are met?
Without question, maintaining the nation's safety is at the very top of that list. For that reason, I believe sequestration is not only a dangerous mistake, but an abdication of our responsibilities as leaders. On Wednesday, the House passed a bill by a vote of 414-2 officially calling on the President to explain what on earth he plans to do as Commander-In-Chief when the sequestration axe falls. Given the hyper-partisan tone in Washington right now, heading into an election, a vote like that should tell you an awful lot about how serious this problem really is.
If you have any questions about sequestration, or anything that is going on in Washington right now, please give the office a call or shoot me an email to let me know.