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GOP defense hawks say they'll try to undo automatic defense cuts

 

A group of hawkish Republican senators announced new legislation Wednesday to prevent billions of dollars of defense cuts called for after the supercommittee failed to reach agreement.

GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (AZ), John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) said this morning they will introduce legislation in January to keep the commitment to find $1.2 trillion more in government savings, but sparing defense funding in the meanwhile by looking to other parts of the government to slash spending.

"We will have a plan, we'll have it in January and I hope our colleagues would heed the words of our Secretary of Defense, of our service chiefs and every military expert that I know that cuts of this magnitude will put our nation's national security at risk," McCain said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Jon Kyl said it would be "impossible" to cut $600 billion from the Defense Department without harming national security.

"We wanted to make it clear what our intention is so that there is absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind that the across the board [cuts] to defense spending will not have to happen," Kyl said.

Whether the legislation advances is another story. And even if it did, President Obama has threatened to veto any attempt to undo the so-called "sequester" of cuts contained as part of the supercommittee agreement.

Sen. Graham called the idea of across-the-board defense cuts as the consequence of the super committee failure "ill-conceived". Sen. McCain called it "idiotic".

"It offends the hell out of me," Graham said, "these men and women have really gone out of their way to protect all of us."

"When you get Congressional leaders saying lets gut the military, put thousands of people at risk in terms of being kicked out. If you are going to fire anybody, fire us! And keep the soldiers," he said.

The senators said that the Defense Department is already planning for $450 billion cuts over the next ten years as a result of the debt ceiling deal and they could not absorb another $600 in cuts.

Where would they find the savings to replace the defense cuts? Kyl said there were savings identified by the supercommittee and by the Biden group that might go into the legislation. He said he was hoping this would be a bipartisan exercise.

Ayotte said, "We shouldn't subjugate our national security for our failure to do our jobs."