Will Senate ‘Amigos,’ Other Hawks Push Budget Panel to Address Sequester Cuts?

Sen. Lindsey Graham listens while Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images)

Sen. Lindsey Graham listens while Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill. The SASC members are both members of a House-Senate panel charged with making long-term budget proposals. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images)

Senior lawmakers, congressional sources and analysts have been telling Defense News for months that any deal that addresses defense sequestration cuts in any way must be birthed by the U.S. Senate.

The House, as we all saw the last few weeks, is focused on other issues. So it’s interesting to note that there is nary a defense hawk among the lower chamber’s members of a special bicameral budget panel.

But several noted sequestration-opposing defense hawks are among the Senate’s members. That raises the chances for sequestration-addressing recommendations from the special panel from minuscule to possible.

The leader of the House’s Republican delegation, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, says he opposes defense sequestration cuts. And Deputy GOP Whip Tom Cole of Oklahoma says he and other fiscal conservatives are willing to entertain plans to replace the across-the-board cuts with other items.

But neither is House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon, R-Calif, if you know what I mean. (And I know you do.)

On the Democratic side, Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen hails from defense sector-friendly Maryland, but he’s no HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith.

For the Pentagon and defense firms, the Senate’s side of the budget panel is more promising.

The Democratic side features several senators with defense-sector ties: Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray of Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee member Tim Kaine of Virginia, and defense sector ally Bill Nelson of Florida.

It gets better, defense wonk. If you’re the optimistic sort.

GOP Senate members include two of the Senate’s “Three Amigos,” SASC members Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Graham also is a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

Other SASC Republicans on the House-Senate budget panel include Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. There’s also independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, another SASC member.

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