By Carlo Muñoz
There is “zero chance” of Democratic support on any sequestration deal that exempts massive military reductions, specifically in capabilities considered outdated on the modern battlefield, a top House lawmaker said Wednesday.
“There will be significant … insistence” from House Democrats to include cuts that “will fall equally” on defense and non-defense in any alternative sequestration deal, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.
The longtime House Democrat is entering his final term in Congress, opting not to run for reelection earlier this year.
His comments came after Senate Democrats demanded that economic stimulus measures must also be part of any bipartisan deal to avoid sequestration.
Senate Dems have yet to decide which prime-the-pump measures to push, but are mulling options such as new infrastructure spending and an extension of the payroll tax holiday.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, said deficit reduction and a federal stimulus package are not mutually exclusive.
“You can have a 10-year deficit-reduction package that encourages a way to get the economy moving more quickly in the first year or so,” he said.
The Pentagon is facing a $500 billion across-the-board cut under sequestration, set to go into place in January.
The reductions, included in last year’s debt-reduction deal, were triggered when a congressional supercommittee failed to trim $1.2 billion from the national deficit.
On the House side, the military cuts backed by Frank and others to duck the sequester would fall along the lines of those outlined in a new report by the left-leaning think tank Project on Defense Alternatives.
The report, released on Wednesday, calls for increased investment in areas such as counterterrorism operations and DOD-led efforts to limit nuclear weapons proliferation.
But the report, drafted by PDA co-chairman Carl Conetta, also calls for a “reduced requirement” in U.S. nuclear arsenal as well as other conventional warfare operations, “which is the bulk” of DOD’s budget.
Those areas include cutting the total U.S. military force by 17 percent, slashing the number of U.S. bases around the world and throttling back the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency operations, while increasing American dependence on military allies across the globe, according to the report.
Those reductions would save DOD roughly $550 billion, effectively sparing the Pentagon from its share of sequestration, Conetta told reporters during the same conference call.
The PDA plan does this, he added, without touching military pay and benefits. If the plan included pay and benefits, another $60 billion in savings could be achieved, Conetta added.
Frank said the White House has been receptive to some of the ideas outlined in the report, but “the administration is not yet where they should be” in terms of its willingness to impose military cuts.
“I believe the administration needs to go further,” Frank added.
I see change coming” for DOD, Conetta noted. “We may again have a discussion … on what our military should be doing in the world” and what that impact will be to the country’s fiscal situation.