Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said Republicans should propose a replacement if they don't want to see defense spending cut as a result of across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
In remarks March 24 at a conference sponsored by the think tank Third Way, Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said the agreement reached in December by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the House and Senate Budget committee chairmen, will need to be replaced to address sequestration in fiscal year 2016 and later.
The agreement set maximum non-war discretionary levels for defense and non-defense funding for fiscal 2014 and for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1. While the Ryan-Murray pact boosted those caps to allow for discretionary sequestration to be avoided in fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015, it did not deal with the remaining years where the spending caps are in place. Many lawmakers see the caps, which would be enforced by sequestration, as being too low.
“Republicans have been quick to decry savings proposed by the Pentagon, while failing to recognize that they are a result of the sequester they themselves supported,” Hoyer said.
“Democrats and Republicans agree that we need to maintain a robust national defense, but those who voted for the defense sequester cannot simply disown it without offering a productive alternative—and it cannot be done at the expense of domestic spending. The groundwork for replacing the sequester should be laid before the Murray-Ryan deal expires, which is to say, soon. And done so by achieving savings where possible and identifying areas where Democrats and Republicans can come to agreement,” he said.
Budget Vote Forthcoming
Hoyer's remarks came only days after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said there will be a House floor vote in coming weeks on a fiscal 2015 budget, an issue some House Republicans had hoped to avoid given the spending caps set in the December agreement.
In order to pass that budget, several House Republicans, including Budget Committee members, have said boosting fiscal 2015 funding above the agreed-upon cap in Ryan-Murray at the expense of non-defense spending was being looked at. Boosting defense could lure back into the fold Republican members who voted against the same total level of discretionary spending in December.
Busting the defense cap could cause problems later in the year, though, as Democrats say it would be reneging on the Ryan-Murray pact and would derail the appropriations process.