On January 1st of next year, a series of mandatory cuts to defense spending will begin: $600 billion worth over 10 years. On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would prevent those cuts from taking place. Our Erin Billups has more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Joint Deficit Reduction Committee failed to cut more than a trillion dollars in spending last year. As a result, come January, the defense budget could see the first in a series of automatic cuts called a sequester, $ 78 billion worth.
"It will slow down modernization. It will make for a lot of layoffs in the defense industry. It will make for more furloughs," said Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institute defense expert.
So Thursday, the GOP led House of Representatives passed a bill, along party lines, that aims to soften the blow.
"Which will save the draconian cuts that are aimed at our war fighters and their families and be able to begin the process of ensuring that our great country lives within its means," Representative Jeb Hensarling said.
But democrats argue the GOP's Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act actually hurts the poor in favor of funding defense.
Austin Representative Lloyd Doggett said, "I am concerned about the wreck that this legislation under consideration today poses to the lives of so many Americans."
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan says his plan restores the first year in cuts to defense spending through lasting entitlement reform, meaning reductions in mandatory programs like food stamps and Medicaid.
"We're stopping the abuse by ensuring individuals are actually eligible for the taxpayer benefits they receive. Novel idea, I know," Ryan said.
But the bill will stay right where it is. Democrats in the Senate and the White House oppose it.
While O'Hanlon, an expert on defense policy, applauds Ryan's efforts to rein in spending, he calls this plan an election year document because it lacks compromise, like a short term tax increase on the wealthy.
O'Hanlon said, "If you were really going to try and deal with that immediate, acute urgent issue, you would have a balanced package because that's the only hope of having democrats sign on and Ryan didn't do that."
For now, it seems preventing massive cuts to defense spending may become a game of chicken, as both sides take advantage of political opportunities this election year.