House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., plan to produce blueprints that would balance the budget within 10 years—without raising taxes.
Instead, they will propose major spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, health care subsidies, food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor and elderly to produce a budget that's balanced. Such cuts, if actually implemented later, would likely slash spending by $5 trillion or so over the coming decade from budgets that are presently on track to spend almost $50 trillion over that timeframe.
To the dismay of defense hawks, however, they can't really use Congress' arcane budget process to repeal automatic Pentagon cuts that will strip $54 billion from core Pentagon programs based on limits set under a hard-fought 2011 budget deal. Nor can they match Obama's proposal to add $38 billion to the Pentagon's budget next year without exposing the entire budget to a parliamentary challenge by Democrats.
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That has deficit and defense hawks like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., fuming.
"If we're going to have a lower (defense) number than the president of the United States is proposing, we have no credibility on saying that we are committed to defending this nation - not when every service chief, every witness before our committee says it will devastate ... our ability to defend the nation," McCain said. "You can't do that and claim that you care about national defense."
In the House, 70 Republicans have signed a letter by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, pledging their "unwavering support" for Obama's $561 billion defense request instead of the $523 billion amount mandated under the 2011 budget deal. That law requires automatic spending cuts for years because of the failure of Congress to produce follow-up deficit cuts.
A bipartisan Senate group, including Armed Services Committee members Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., hopes to develop a package of alternative cuts and, perhaps, new revenues to replace the forced cuts to the Pentagon and nondefense programs. They're hoping to replicate a 2013 budget pact that partially eased the automatic cuts for the 2014-15 budget years.
Defense hawks are likely to win some relief after Price adds about $13 billion in extra money above Obama's budget request for overseas military operations that would effectively provide relief to core Pentagon accounts like training and operations and maintenance.