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November 07, 2012

Lame Duck Opening Moves: GOP Leadership Agrees DoD is on the Table?
Posted by Bill R. French

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Speaker of the House John A. Boehner (R - OH) has just delivered the opening statement in what is sure to be a difficult lame duck debate within Congress over avoiding the fiscal cliff. If lawmakers fail to act, the combination of expiring tax cuts and arbitrary spending reductions will be automatically triggered in two months time. The consequences for the American economy could be disastrous, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Of those reductions, those affecting the Pentagon have received disproportionate attention. What role the Pentagon budget should play in avoiding the fiscal cliff has been hotly debated,  with many – but by no means all – conservatives calling for a deal to exempt the DoD from cuts. Some, most notably Buck Mckeon (R-CA), have even called to reverse the cuts already in place, even though those "cuts" are from projected budgetary increases and the Pentagon budget is still on course to rise slightly over the next decade.

But Boehner may have just signaled a significant softening of the GOP position.  In his speech, he dedicated only one sentence to Pentagon spending to oppose “slashing” the DoD budget. Crucially, this is not objecting to reductions in Pentagon spending as such – a rhetorical fact which is likely indicative of GOP intentions when uttered in such a calibrated address. This interpretation would seem to be corroborated by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) statements today when he similarly indicated merely opposing  “massive defense cuts.”

In looking forward to near-term the work required to avoid the fiscal cliff, it seems that the GOP leadership now tacitly agrees that Pentagon spending should remain on the table.

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