Has HASC Chairman McKeon Thrown in the Towel on Sequestration?

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon said in an interview published this week that pending Pentagon spending cuts are likely to kick in March 1. (Photo made available by McKeon's office)

Has House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, Washington’s top anti-sequestration warrior, finally thrown in the towel?

Sure, it sounds ludicrous. McKeon has been persistent in his warnings about the effects a $500 billion, 10-year cut to planned Pentagon spending would have on U.S. national security. But consider a comment the California Republican made in a recent media interview.

“I’m pretty sure it is going to happen now, and I would really like to see us fix the CR problem,” McKeon told POLITICO in an interview for a piece that was published Wednesday. “I guess the feeling is until everybody feels enough pain, we’re not going to do the things that we really need to do. And that scares me.”

So has McKeon given up? Not completely, says Claude Chafin, his spokesman, who blamed President Obama.

“The sequester dilemma took two branches of Congress and both parties to create,” Chafin told Defense News in an email. “The chairman has always been frustrated that while House Republicans have voted repeatedly to resolve sequester, the commander in chief seems reluctant to engage in meaningful negotiations.”

Defense News replied to that by asking point blank: Is McKeon just throwing in the towel?

“No,” Chafin replied, “but as I said, it requires effort from both sides.”

To be fair, the other side — the White House and congressional Democrats — recently proposed delaying the sequester by two years. Senate Republicans instantly rejected how Democrats wanted to pay for the delay, without offering any counter proposals on that “pay-for.” But wait, there’s more: Obama has repeatedly talked about “eliminating” both the pending defense cuts and an identical $500 billion, 10-year cut to domestic spending that Democrats oppose. Republicans just disagree with how Obama wants to do it, and without pushing their own plan that other players in the process can support.

Congressional Republicans say Obama is not trying hard enough to turn off the defense sequestration cuts. But it is congressional Republicans who repeatedly torpedo anything Obama and congressional Democrats propose for completely replacing the defense sequestration cuts with other deficit-reduction measures.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett