WASHINGTON – Congressional deficit hawks, and their big-money donors, won the first match. Defense hawks stole the second. And all signs point to the spending hawks taking the next round.
Since the tea party — backed by Koch Brothers cash — swept into office in 2010, the US defense sector has been battling conservative lawmakers’ penchant for deep spending cuts and smaller federal deficits.
“There is a struggle that’s ongoing between the fiscal conservatives and hawks,” one GOP source said. “Defense hawks could bring down the [coming 2016] budget resolution on the floor because members like [Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, both House Armed Services subcommittee chairs] say they won’t vote for the budget if it breaks with the Ryan level.”
He was referring to the 2014 House Republican budget plan crafted by then-Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. That blueprint called for $585.5 billion in base national defense spending.
“You’ve got 25 fiscal conservatives who will vote against any budget no matter what because they believe it gives the president too much authority on any number of programs,” the source said. “Then leadership needs the defense hawks to vote for it, but they want more defense spending. It creates a real tough balancing act.”
Doing something legislatively in Washington requires a robust offensive attack. In 2010, the tea party had a dominant offense. In 2012, it was the defense caucus that was more adept at putting up points.