On this blog, we rightly spend a great deal of time criticizing those in Washington who fail to address our nation’s coming fiscal crisis. However, on Thursday, Politicopublished an article worth praising:
On a hot July night six months ago, 89 House Republicans joined more dovish Democrats to do the unusual for Washington: cut $1.1 billion from the GOP’s proposed budget for defense in 2013.
Then came Hurricane Sandy and the New Year’s Day tax bill, and as many as 157 House Republicans voted Jan. 15 to endorse a much bigger cut, taking nearly $10 billion from the Pentagon to help pay for disaster aid. It was a huge swing by any measure and one followed this week by a Monday night Senate vote in which the overwhelming majority of Republicans endorsed their own across-the-board defense cut worth tens of billions of dollars over the next nine years.
Defense has long been a “sacred cow” for Republicans, sometimes for good reason – it’s a major target of cuts by Democrats, even though it is Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that drive our long-term spending problems. Additionally, national defense is one of the few enumerated powers of the federal government. However, this does not excuse the department from being held accountable for taxpayer dollars.
Interestingly, defense hawk Senator John McCain (R-AZ) accidentally provides reason to cut defense spending, even while opposing it. From the article:
“You have a number of conservatives who are in favor of cutting defense. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. It is what it is,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told POLITICO. He himself felt caught up in the moment Monday, first voting for the cuts and then pulling back and changing his stand to be with his ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“I voted aye because it was [to] pay for [Hurricane Sandy relief]. Then I talked with Lindsey,” McCain said. “If we’re going to make cuts in defense, I just don’t think they should be across the board.”
“We are seeing in the Republican Party what we have seen for a long time to some degree. Isolationism. Fortress America. Don’t spend money on defense, and part of that is a backlash against waste and mismanagement.”
Of course, isolationism is very different than not spending money on the massive level of waste and mismanagement in the Department of Defense. In opposing those who want to cut defense spending, Senator McCain just gave us ammunition.
Is this a sign of the times? Are more Republicans getting serious about the national debt, albeit more slowly than is necessary? According to this Forbes column (hat tip to Ohio Tea Party Patriots State Coordinator Marianne Gasiecki), the answer is yes, with emphasis on the seriousness of Speaker Boehner’s willingness to stand strong on sequester.
Again, cutting defense is not even close to the spending discipline needed to balance the budget and reduce America’s federal debt. It’s not even enough to modestly dent long-term deficits. But with the Republican willingness to vote for budgets that implement changes to Medicaid and Medicare, and now defense spending, the influence of the Tea Party is begininning to be seen in Washington.