Top GOPer Admits Massive Flip-Flop On Military Sequester Cuts

Bill Scher

Let’s play: Pretend A Democrat Said That.

From CNN, here’s Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn claiming the sequester won’t hurt the military:

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he plans to make the case to other Republicans and the public that despite warnings from the Pentagon that the mandated cuts will be devastating, the overall amount of defense spending will actually still rise.

Cornyn conceded that until now he had been parroting what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continuously warns — that automatic, government-wide cuts could jeopardize national security.

But the veteran senator said he looked into it and will now argue that even if the cuts go through on March 1, the Pentagon will still see its budget go up…

To be sure, Cornyn called himself a defense “hawk” and did say the role of the federal government should be first and foremost to protect American citizens.

But he also believes that the deficit should be paramount since the United States has ended its fighting in Iraq and is winding down the war in Afghanistan.

He added that if “God forbid” another 9/11 happens, Congress would act.

In other words, Cornyn is saying:

1. I have completely flip-flopped from being against the sequester because it would military, to being for the sequester since it won’t hurt the military.

2. If I am wrong, and a weakened military allows another 9/11 to happen, don’t worry, we can pass some legislation then.

How many minutes would it take for Fox News to destroy a Democratic politician for saying the exact same thing?

Of course, there’s no need for us to use Fox-style McCarthyite tactics in response to Cornyn. We can all acknowledge Cornyn doesn’t really want a 9/11 to happen or believe his actions would allow it to happen.

But the glib comment shows how quickly Cornyn and other Republicans have abandoned the “strong military” plank of their core platform, even if it means ignoring the facts.

Cornyn is flat wrong: the sequester will cut the overall military budget in inflation-adjusted terms, as the CBO graph below makes clear.

Granted, there is a fair debate to be had about how devastating those cuts will be.

As the New York Times editorial board and the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus recently reported, a Congressional Research Service memo outlines ways in the which the Pentagon will have some flexibility to carry out sequester cuts that will mitigate some of the worst-case scenarios.

But it’s ludicrous the suggest there will no impact at all.

The CRS memo outlines ways to “soften” the sequester blow, but it doesn’t argue all consequence can be avoided. As Pincus summarized:

Overall, [CRS’ Amy] Belasco suggested that the Pentagon can limit “cuts to readiness-related O&M [Operations and Maintenance] operating forces to 10 percent to 12 percent, about half the level that the Joint Chiefs warned would be dangerous in its January letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

Her analysis is based on Defense implementing a hiring freeze, furloughing civilian workers for 22 days over seven months, and cutting recruiting, administrative and servicewide base support, including contractors, which could reach 20 percent.

The CRS memo also notes that implementing those austere civilian workforce policies can have impact on soldiers in the field, affecting “the delivery of goods and services to military forces”, though it suggests being creative with the scheduling of furloughs could mitigate the impact.

However you interpret the numbers, reading the CRS memo makes one thing very clear: crude budget caps and across-the-board sequester cuts is no way to run a military, let alone a government.

Obviously, there is military waste to cut. But the meat ax of the sequester does not allow for the careful budgeting that would best target waste without risking military operations.

It is quite strange for a self-described “hawk” like Cornyn to suddenly turn glib about the prospect of abrupt, ham-fisted military cuts.

This is someone who in 2007 criticized proposals to put conditions on Iraq war funding, saying “Congress should not be involved in micromanaging the day-to-day tactics of the military commanders on the ground. Our Constitution provides for a single commander in chief, not 535 chieftains.”

Yet now, with a Democratic President, with an opportunity to gut government with the sequester, Cornyn is willing to flip-flop on a dime, misstate the facts, let Congress meddle with sound military budgeting and risk military readiness.

It almost makes you think Republicans never really cared about the military at all. Because once the military ceased to be a useful political weapon for the Republicans, Republicans stopped being so protective of the military.

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