Defense Lawmakers Raise Alarm Over Sequestration and the National Defense Authorization Act

Six Republican and Democratic Senators are urging Congress to avert drastic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs beginning on January 2nd 2013. This sequester, set forth by the Budget Control Act of 2011, could have a "devastating impact."

Last week, Defense lawmakers Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D.NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelley Ayotte (R-NH), as well as Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), signed onto a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

In it they wrote:
"Sequestration will endanger the lives of America's service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services.  Meeting this challenge will require real compromise, and we do not believe that Congress and the president can afford to wait until January to begin to develop a short term or long term sequestration alternative.  All ideas should be put on the table and considered.  Accordingly, we urge you to press between now and November the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score any bipartisan proposals forwarded to them so that Congress may evaluate these plans."

The goal of the bipartisan letter is an attempt to "send a strong signal of our bipartisan determination to avoid or delay sequestration and the resulting major damage to our national security, vital domestic priorities, and our economy." 

Sequestration will be one of many issues Congress will have to address in a Lame-Duck session after the November elections - i.e. the "fiscal cliff." Luckily the Senate managed to pass a Continuing Resolution in the early morning hours of Saturday, moving the appropriations process out of the Lame-Duck "to-do" list.

But, in what many say was a political move, Senate Majority Leader Reid attempted to bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) up for debate on Saturday at 1:40am, after the Senate had discharged all of its business and most Senators had left town for their pre-election recess.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), as one of the few Senators remaining in the chamber, spoke out against the move which would have structured the debate and limited amendments that could be offered on the floor. Senator Kyl claimed Senator Reid was ignoring an ongoing agreement process between top leaders on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on how to move forward on consideration of the bill.

In the past, the NDAA has become the vehicle for legislative items of all shapes and sizes, such as legislation increasing penalties for hate crimes, because it is the most likely bill to be completed before year's end and is sure to pass. Senator McCain, ranking member on SASC, wants an open amendment process which runs contrary to what the Majority Leader's Saturday procedural move would have done.

After 50 years of consecutive passage in Congress, the future of the FY13 NDAA now remains in question.

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