Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is keeping up the pressure on his fellow Republicans to lift spending caps for the Defense Department.
“At a time of growing worldwide threats, the sequestration-level caps on defense spending are putting our national security at unacceptable risk,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement on Monday.
He repeated his argument that defense spending for fiscal 2016 should be restored to $577 billion, the level planned before the 2011 Budget Control Act, and noted that his House counterpart, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), and others have called for reversing the caps.
“We cannot afford to defer this vital debate. All of our senior military leaders have testified to Congress this year that if defense spending remains at sequestration levels, they cannot implement the National Military Strategy, and it will put Americans’ lives at risk,” McCain said. “Preventing this catastrophic outcome and providing for our national defense is the most fundamental test of our responsibility to govern. Republicans cannot afford to fail this test.”
The warning comes as Budget Committee Chairmen Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are expected to unveil separate resolutions for fiscal 2016, possibly as soon as Tuesday.
The fiscally conservative pair are expected to roll out budget blueprints that keep the sequestration caps in place, over the objections of defense hawks like McCain, who have said they will not vote for a plan that doesn’t raise the spending ceiling for the Pentagon.
While the budget blueprints themselves don’t require President Obama’s signature, they do provide guidelines for the appropriations bills lawmakers will mark-up later this year.
The president’s budget request for fiscal 2016, which begins in October, asks Congress to eliminate sequestration by raising the defense cap by $38 billion and the non-defense spending cap by $37 billion.
Some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), have floated the idea of inserting a deficit-neutral reserve fund into the budget plan. The proposal would involve closing loopholes and tweaking entitlement programs to raise revenue and generate savings.
However, such a plan could be dead on arrival in the more conservative House.