Scott joins chorus of GOP governors demanding gridlocked Congress avert defense cutsby Dara Kam | August 2nd, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott joined a chorus of fellow GOP governors in a contentious partisan squabble over federal lawmakers’ failure to avert $110 billion in mandatory spending cuts to defense and domestic programs set to kick in in January.
Scott sent a letter today to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asking them to thwart an estimated $500 billion 10-year reduction in defense spending. The automatic cuts, known as the “sequester,” are part of last year’s deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Unless a special congressional deficit reduction supercommittee came up with a way to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion, the budget would face an automatic cut of that amount over a decade, split evenly between defense and domestic programs.
By one estimate, Scott wrote, the defense cuts could cause 39,000 Floridians to lose their jobs.
“In examining the potential consequences of sequestration, it is devastating to see the impact that such dramatic defense cuts will have on Florida’s economy,” Scott, a Republican, wrote.
Scott has a better idea. He suggested that Congress repeal the “job-killing ObamaCare legislation,” a savings of up to $1 trillion, according to the governor. Scott launched his political career by fighting Obama’s health care law before running for governor two years ago.
Scott’s letter follows up on a missive sent yesterday to the White House by the Republican Governors Association, headed by Govs. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, to the White House asking President Obama to force Congress to act.
Echoing the RGA letter, Scott quoted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who called the cuts “unworkable” and “a disaster. Slashing defense spending could also threaten Florida’s thriving ports industry, Scott wrote.
Scott earned high marks from tea party supporters for whacking the state budget by more than $615 million during his first year as governor in 2011.
“While I agree with many Americans that the federal government must reduce spending, reduce taxes and create an environment conducive to private sector job growth, I urge you to prioritize the safety and security of our nation and the strength of our economy as you focus on the issues related to the budget and sequestration,” Scott wrote. “I encourage you to replace the impending and disastrous defense cuts with reductions in other non-essential government services. For example, repealing the job-killing ObamaCare legislation will save close to $1 trillion by itself. This action would be a far more responsible and sensible step toward balancing the federal budget.”
Democratic leaders have said that proposal would ravage the social safety net. They say the only way to avert the automatic cuts is to strike a grand bargain to reduce the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes.
The automatic cuts were designed to be painful. They were embedded in last year’s deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling as a sword to hold over a special congressional deficit reduction supercommittee. If the committee failed to come up with a bipartisan deal to cut deficits by $1.2 trillion, the budget would face an automatic whack of that amount over 10 years, split evenly between defense and domestic programs.
In the three months to the election, Republicans are using the looming reductions in military spending as a political cudgel against Obama, arguing that the commander in chief is willing to risk the nation’s security as he uses the leverage in the budget showdown with Congress. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has echoed GOP lawmakers’ criticism.
Democrats counter that Republicans who voted for the cuts are trying to wriggle out of last August’s deficit-cutting agreement and they must consider tax increases as part of any congressional compromise to stave off reductions.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.