Now there is dissension in the ranks.
Senate Armed Services Committee member and Republican vice presidential short-lister Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., bucked the leadership of both parties today for indicating they may not take up the defense sequester before election day.
Ayotte told National Journal that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., they are wrong to suggest pushing budget negotiations until after election day - or worse, into next year.
"I disagree with him," she said of Cantor. "I think that they're wrong on this."
Ayotte is just one national security issue leader in Congress to express growing frustration over party leaders who seem unwilling to give up the perceived political leverage of mandatory defense spending cuts, or are unfazed by dire warnings from the defense community that the penalty set for Jan. 2 already is causing defense industry layoffs and nervousness in the Pentagon.
"We can't wait until after the election, so I'm hoping that leadership would want to come forward and resolve this in advance of the election," Ayotte said.
Ayotte has painted herself a "realist" on what must occur in budget negotiations. In an earlier appearance at TechAmerica, an industry advocacy group, Ayotte indicated she supports raising revenues, though not tax rates alone, along with entitlement and tax reforms. She has long supported cuts to both defense and non-defense spending.
Now the senator wants a small working group formed across the House and Senate to get moving on finding ways to avoid defense cuts. Staffers said they do not feel GOP leaders are blocking the idea, rather Democrats have not yet warmed to them. Two weeks ago, committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called for a bipartisan letter of members before the lame duck just admitting they must deal on taxes.
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Photo: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill earlier this year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)