Republicans try to protect military from budget cuts

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2011 7:28 PM
Republicans try to protect military from budget cuts

By Rachelle Younglai

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect the military from automatic budget cuts despite stiff opposition from Democrats and a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

Republicans have been trying to find savings to replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts that go into effect from 2013 after a congressional debt panel failed to reach a deficit reduction plan in November.

Half the savings would come from the Pentagon's budget and the rest from domestic federal programs.

The bill proposed by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Representative Howard McKeon, would slash the federal workforce by 10 percent in order to spare the military and other programs from spending cuts.

"The troops simply don't have any more to give. It is time we address our debt crisis sensibly, by literally shrinking the size of government," McKeon said in a statement.

Congress has been struggling with how to rein in the country's $15 trillion public debt.

As part of this summer's deal to raise the debt ceiling, a super committee of lawmakers was charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. When they failed to forge a deal, it triggered the series of budget cuts.

Republicans in the Senate also announced plans on Wednesday to protect the Pentagon's budget, which has nearly doubled over the past decade to $700 billion.

They said they would introduce legislation in January that would rely on savings proposed by other means including broadcast spectrum and land sales.

"We are not talking about raising taxes," said Jon Kyl, the no 2 Republican in the Senate.

"The bottom line is, we will identify savings, we will present that in the best legislative vehicle we can and thereby offset the savings from (the automatic budget cuts)," he said.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

(Reporting By Rachelle Younglai)