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Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I thank my friend from Utah for his comments. I think it is important, since we have two votes coming up starting in less than 30 minutes, that we talk a little bit about the background, where we are today and what we are going to be faced with in these votes and what the options are.
Back about 5 weeks ago, when it looked as though sequestration was going to kick in, there was concern. I understand there is a lot of concern on the domestic side and on the defense side, but my concern is mainly on the defense side. I am the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I am concerned about what has been happening under this administration in the last 4 years, the disarming of America and the devastation that has taken place already. A lot of people do not realize, under this administration we are now projecting cuts already to hit $487 billion in defense.
If sequestration should come in, it would raise that to $1 trillion, and $1 trillion over that period of time is, in fact, devastating. The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, came out immediately and said: This cannot happen; we cannot adequately defend America if we allow this to take place. He was talking about sequestration.
Sequestration, I think people kind of lose sight of what it is. It is the equal cutting all the way across all of these accounts in order to come up with a savings, which I think is kind of interesting. Here we are talking about all this anguish we are going through right now just for $1.2 trillion, when you stop and realize in the President's own budget, over 4 years he has a $5.3 trillion increase. So we are talking about 10 years to come up with $1.2 trillion when he was accountable for $5.3 trillion in 4 years. That is not even believable. When I say it back in my State of Oklahoma they shake their heads and think there must be some miscommunication, it cannot be right.
The problem has been, in this administration, over the past 4 years all the cuts have come from the military. They have not come from anywhere else. It is an oversimplification, but you can make the statement that they are cutting--I will yield to my friend from Utah because I understand he has a unanimous consent request. I will be happy to do that, but I ask unanimous consent the floor be returned to me.
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Mr. INHOFE. I appreciate that.
Prior to the time we propounded the unanimous consent request, I was talking about my frustration about what has been happening fiscally in this Senate during the last 4 years and the mere fact that under this administration we have increased deficits by $5.3 trillion. Now we are trying to come up with something far less than that in a period of 10 years. To me, people look at that and say: What is this all about? But that is not the reason I bring this up.
I bring this up because the amount of money that has come out of the military is actually a reduction. If you look at the increase in the spending in the last 4 years, it has all come out of defense accounts, so it is defense that has taken the hits on this. Government has expanded approximately 30 percent across the board. At the same time our military has been reduced in terms of our budget for defense accounts.
Anyway, when this came up a few weeks ago, I thought it was not going to happen. I thought we were going to have something come up and change this whole idea of having to make these reductions. So what I did at that time was draft a bill. The bill merely said if we are stuck with sequestration, let's allow the chiefs--speaking of the military--to reevaluate everything that is included so they can look and see where we can take cuts and it will not be as devastating.
In fact, I called each one of the five service chiefs and I said: Would it be less devastating if you were able to take the same amount of money out but take it out selectively, out of accounts where it would be not as significant?
They said: Yes, it would.
I said: Would you be able to prepare for this in the next 4 years?
The answer is yes. That is where we are today. They said they are able to do that.
The frustrating fact is this President--I am getting criticized on both sides. People are saying you are giving too much to the President. We are not because we have safeguards in here, which I will explain in a minute. But at the same time, the President comes out and says he will issue a veto threat against this bill. What does this do? It gives flexibility for the President.
I am going to read something. This is a statement that President Obama said on February 19, 2013. He said:
Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won't consider whether we are cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn't make those distinctions.
He goes on to say that he wants that flexibility. This is the President asking for it on February 19, 2013. Here we come along with a bill that gives him that flexibility with certain restrictions so that he can't pick and choose areas that we find are against the policy that has been set. I will give an example.
We had the National Defense Authorization Act. It was one that took months and months to put together. It took a long time to put together, and we made evaluations, with a limited budget, on what we could do. All this does is say if we have to make some changes from the across-the-board cut, let's make them consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act.
In other words, all those weeks and months of work by the Senate Armed Services Committee and, I might say, the House Armed Services Committee would not be in vain. Those cuts would be consistent with the intent, to make sure the President would do this.
A lot of people say we can't trust the President; he is going to put more cuts in places where it would not be in keeping with what the Senate Armed Services Committee wants. But we have a provision called a congressional disapproval mechanism. That means if the President doesn't do what the intent of this legislation is, then we can go ahead and disapprove it.
We have those two safeguards. One is they have to follow the criteria that is consistent with the Senate Armed Services Committee, the national defense authorization bill, which is the House and the Senate. To be sure we will be able to do that it has the disapproval mechanism.
People do not realize the costs of this. If you take the same amount of money that we are talking about in sequestration and allow the service chiefs to massage this and make changes, give them flexibility to go after programs that are not as significant as some that might otherwise be cut--the bill allows the President to listen to the advice of his military leadership and offset some of the devastating impacts of sequestration. If the sequester is allowed to take place and the congressional resolution is not fixed, the Department of Defense stands to waste billions of dollars through the cancellation of contracts.
People don't think about this. We make commitments backed by the United Sates of America that we are going to do certain things. A lot of these are contracts such that if they are terminated it could cost quite a bit of money.
The termination of multiyear contracts is something that we would be concerned about. Providing the Department of Defense flexibility to determine how these cuts will be implemented will let us take this into consideration.
At this point, I ask the Senator from Pennsylvania how much time he would like for his concluding remarks.
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Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I appreciate that very much. He has been a great partner. I have given a background of what went on 5 weeks ago and our discussions with the service chiefs. I was hoping this day would not come and that we would not be faced with the continued devastation of our military, but the time is here. Tomorrow is the 1st of the month.
The Senator from Pennsylvania and I have come up with a bill that will be voted on, and it will minimize the damage and still preserve the cuts that are mandated and are out there.
One of the problems we have not talked about is the continuing resolution. When I was talking to the different service chiefs, one was General Odierno, who is in the Army. He said that just as devastating as how the CR is set up, this corrects that problem at the same time. We have something that is not going to cost any more money. Believe me, a lot of my closest friends--for instance, in the House of Representatives--think it is a good thing that we are making these mandatory cuts. They cannot argue with that, but we can at least minimize the damage in these cuts.
I will read something that shocked me when I saw the President had issued--I am not sure if it is a veto message. I am told it was a veto message.
Here we have a bill that gives him flexibility with the restrictions we talked about. Yet he says he is now going to veto it. It is worth reading this again, and we need to make sure we get this in the Record.
This is his quote on February 19, 2013. This is the President speaking.
Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won't consider whether we're cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn't make those distinctions.
We are now giving him a vehicle that makes those distinctions so we have that flexibility. It has the safeguards to take care of the problems that have been brought up. I think it is not a good solution, but right now it is the only solution.
With that, I yield the floor.
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