Rehberg Urges Reid to Follow House Action Prevent Automatic Defense Cuts
Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today joined colleagues in the House in sending a letter to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to schedule a vote to stop automatic defense cuts, sometimes called sequestration. In May of this year, the House passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which would replace the first year of defense cuts with strategic spending reductions. On May 15, this bill was placed on the Senate calendar, although the Senate has refused to allow a vote, and has not produced an alternative bill. Earlier this month, Rehberg hosted a "Defending our Defenders" Listening Session in Great Falls to highlight the devastating impact of Senate inaction.
"Our national security, Malmstrom Air Force Base and the national guard and thousands of Montana jobs literally hang in the balance, and the Senate refuses to act," said Rehberg. "Everyone knows these cuts are coming and what they will mean. I heard first-hand from folks in the defense community how important it was to stop the cuts at my Defending the Defenders Listening Session. The House has a plan, and it's time for the Senate to schedule an up or down vote so we can move toward a workable solution."
As part of the political deal hatched to allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling again, Congress created a so-called "Supercommittee" to find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Unfortunately, with reductions of President Obama's health care law spending off the table, the Supercommittee was unable to find necessary cuts.
As the result of that failure, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts -- called sequestration -- will go into effect on January 1 if Congress fails to act. Half of those cuts will be made to Defense spending, which supports, among other things, Malmstrom and MANG.
Rehberg was the only member of Montana's delegation to vote against raising the debt limit and creating a Supercommittee whose inevitable failure would lead to sequestration.
The full letter is included below:
Dear Senator Majority Leader Reid:
Last summer, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA), which you voted against, raising the federal debt ceiling and pledging to cut budget deficits by at least $2.1 trillion from 2012 to 2021. Of that, cuts of $900 billion were included in the BCA -- with half from defense. Congress then created a "supercommittee" of 12 of its members to achieve the remaining $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction through more spending cuts or tax increases.
Sequestration aimed to promote agreement by creating an alternative that seemed worse: automatic cuts in defense and non-defense spending. The theory was that the fear of sequester would so upset Republicans (against deep defense cuts) and Democrats (against domestic cuts) that they would negotiate a more acceptable package. By the same logic, Congress would then approve the supercommittee's plan.
The supercommittee failed to agree and in the absence of an agreement by January 2013 to cut deficits by an additional $1.2 trillion through FY2021 (in addition to the $900 billion already cut by the BCA spending caps for FY2012 and FY2013), the BCA requires that the additional deficit savings be achieved through automatic cuts in spending modeled on the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Control Act of 1985.
The procedures for automatic cuts require that all of the required deficit savings--whether the entire $1.2 trillion or some lesser amount needed to bridge the gap between what Congress approved and the $1.2 billion target--be achieved through spending reductions and that one-half of the spending cuts be imposed on national defense.
If sequestration takes effect in January, the defense budget would be cut an additional $55 billion per year from the levels established in Budget Control Act. That would mean an additional $492 billion in cuts on top of the $487 billion already being implemented. In total, over $1 trillion would be cut over the next ten years with disastrous consequences for soldiers, veterans, national security, and the economy.
Although these cuts will not be implemented until January 2013, their effects will be felt almost immediately--by units preparing to fight in Afghanistan and operate elsewhere in the world. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey has pointed out, "[S]equestration leaves me three places to go to get the money: operations, maintenance, and training. That's the definition of a hollow force."
The defense cuts could threaten the readiness of already extended U.S. forces, which should be of deep concern to the commander in chief. Both the Pentagon and the myriad defense contractors with which it works are already feeling the threat of these spending cuts, which loom in the not-so-distant future. The cuts could easily lead to widespread layoffs, facilities closing, and infrastructure depletion.
The House has already passed reconciliation legislation that addresses the automatic spending cuts. It would impose a cap on fiscal year 2013 discretionary spending that is in line with the House budget resolution. It also would enact entitlement program reforms, yielding savings to replace the automatic cuts. The bill is not perfect: It avoids the sequestration for only one year, and its savings on entitlement programs are a minuscule 1 percent of total entitlement spending over the next decade. It does, however, mark an important accomplishment by the House: to set spending priorities and enact reforms--essentially, to budget. Getting spending under control requires this exact budget discipline.