Panetta: 'Never More Concerned about the Ability of Congress to Forge Commonsense Solutions'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for months has strongly warned against sequestration-imposed cuts to the military, but he supported Obama's threat to veto any stop-gap measures to simply remove the trigger for automatic spending cuts he said would "tear a seam in the nation's defense." In a statement, Panetta said, "Congress cannot simply turn off the sequester mechanism, but instead must pass deficit reduction at least equal to the $1.2 trillion it was charged to pass under the Budget Control Act. In my four decades involved with public service, I have never been more concerned about the ability of Congress to forge common-sense solutions to the nation's pressing problems."
McCain, Graham Say They're Working on Plan Soften Blow of Sequester
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they are “disappointed” that the super committee failed to reach an agreement and are working on a plan to mitigate the effects of the “draconian sequester” of $600 billion in defense spending, which would come on top of the $450 billion the Defense Department has committed to cutting over the next decade. “As every military and civilian defense official has stated, these cuts represent a threat to the national security interests of the United States, and cannot be allowed to occur,” they said in a joint statement. “…We are now working on a plan to minimize the impact of the sequester on the Department of Defense and to ensure that any cuts do not leave us with a hollow military.”
Boehner: Committee's Work Will Play Role in Solution
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that while he is “disappointed” in the outcome, this process “it did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus. I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation.”
“I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation,” said Boehner.
McConnell: Obama to Blame
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed President Obama’s lack of involvement with the panel and Democrats’ refusal to discuss a deal without tax increases for the panel’s failure. He stressed that GOP efforts to alter the defense sequester will not affect the topline $1.2 trillion sequester among. Rather, he said, Republicans will try to tinker with the formula.
“For those of us who hoped that this committee could make some of the tough decisions President Obama continues to avoid, the Democrats’ rejection of not one but two good-faith Republican proposals is deeply disappointing,” McConnell said in a statement. “The good news is that even without an agreement, $1.2 trillion will still be cut from the deficit. Now it falls on the President to ensure that the defense cuts he insisted upon do not undermine national security, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned.
Levin Points Finger at GOP
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed his finger directly at Republicans for blocking tax increases at the expense of the military and other social programs.
“I am saddened," he said, in a statement, "that the Republican refusal to meaningfully address our revenue shortfall now threatens draconian cuts to important defense and domestic programs."
Pelosi Blames Republicans
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded by bashing Republicans for the failure.
“The plan could not be balanced because Republicans insisted on extending the Bush tax cuts for people making more than a million dollars a year and repealing the Medicare guarantee – while refusing to accept a jobs proposal. By rejecting a balanced approach, Republicans chose to keep their pledge to Grover Norquist to protect the wealthiest one percent at all costs,” said Pelosi.
Sanders Decries Failure to Raise Taxes
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the only self-proclaimed socialist in Congress, sounded a theme one would expect to hear from the Occupy Wall Street protesters in decrying the super committee's failure.
"The American people have made it very clear that they believe the wealthiest people in the country—who are doing phenomenally well and are paying the lowest effective tax rate in decades—must start sharing some of the burden of deficit reduction," Sanders stated. "The American people have made it clear that they favor closing tax loopholes for profitable corporations.
"Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress won't do what big majorities of Americans want Congress to do," he added.
Van Hollen: 'Sad Day' For Nation
A Democratic member of the panel, House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., called the committee’s failure a “sad day for the nation and an opportunity missed.”
He added in a statement that “it will be easy for people to deride any attempt to explain what happened as more partisan finger-pointing.” But Van Hollen said, “that approach would be as easy as it would be wrong. It would ignore everyone’s responsibility to seek the facts and the truth. In the days ahead, I urge the public and the media to carefully review the facts and record about what prevented the Joint Committee from developing a sound and balanced plan. I look forward to that discussion.”
Perry: Congress, Obama Should Work Through Holiday
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement the following:
"Ultimately, responsibility for this failure lays at President Obama's feet. The whole reason a supercommittee was created was because the President wasn't willing to lead, wasn't willing to even put on paper his plans for cutting spending. It's amazing to what lengths he will go to avoid making tough decisions. And who pays the price for Washington's failure? The American people and our military personnel, who will now be subjected to a half trillion dollars in national defense cuts?
"The President and Congress should work through the Thanksgiving holidays, work through weekends and recesses to cut federal spending, undo the damage being done to our military personnel and fix the budget mess."
Romney: Obama Was Busy 'Doing Other Things'
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke from the campaign trail in Nashua, N.H.:
"I would have anticipated that the president of the United States would have spent every day, and many nights, working with members of the super committee to try to find ways to bridge the gap, but instead he's been out doing other things, campaigning and blaming and traveling. This is in my view inexcusable."
Paul: Committee Had 'Impossible' Task
Rep. Ron Paul released a statement on the super committee:
"This week marks the deadline for the so-called congressional Super Committee to meet its goal of cutting a laughably small amount of federal spending over the next decade. In fact the Committee merely needs to cut about $120 billion annually from the federal budget over the next 10 years to meet its modest goals, but even this paltry amount has produced hand-wringing and hysteria on Capitol Hill. This is only cutting proposed increases. It has nothing to do with actually cutting anything. This shows how unserious politicians are about our very serious debt problems.
"To be fair, however, in one sense members of the Super Committee face an impossible task. They must, in effect, cut government spending without first addressing the role of government in our society. They must continue to insist the federal government can provide Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits in the future as promised, while maintaining our wildly interventionist foreign policy. Yet everyone knows this is a lie."
Gingrich: Collapse Is Good
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke Monday in Nashua, N.H., about the super committee.
“I want to talk a little bit about the super committee’s collapse which I think is good for America. And then I want to talk about why I think Washington is so gridlocked and unnecessarily gridlocked.
“I think it’s important to understand it’s not that Washington is inherently gridlocked, it’s that the current players behaving in the current way are inherently gridlocked. It’s partly the president’s fault, it’s partly the congress’s fault. But it’s a mess.”
“I think it’s going to fail, and I think it should fail because I think it’s exactly wrong. But they could frankly hold a press conference this week and say, ‘we’re going to ask through regular order every subcommittee to find savings. We’re going to do it out in the open. We’re going to it with expert testimony.”
Scott: "Integrity" on the line if Congress tries to get out of sequesters.
For Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only thing worse than the formation of the super committee in the first place, would be the failure of the super committee.
Scott voted against the debt-ceiling deal that created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and said, even before failure became imminent that he “would have been happier if we had not done this.”
But because Congress tasked the 12 members to come up with a proposal, Scott told National Journal, “I disagreed with the formation of the super committee, but the fact is, they should come up with $1.2 trillion worth of cuts; they should put it on the table, and we should vote for it or vote against it.”
The integrity of the institution relies on it, he said.
“At the end of the day, we need to restore the respect of the average voter in this nation by doing what we say are going to do,” he said.
This line of thinking holds, he said, even when it comes down to sequestration. Sure, Scott would rather not see enormous automatic cuts to defense spending, but this was the deal laid out in August.
“I think our integrity and our character is far more important than trying to find a way around the deal,” he said.
West: Obama shares super blame.
A prominent House Republican freshman and tea party favorite was already lashing out on Monday at the “embarrassment” of the deficit super committee’s anticipated failure – and was partly blaming President Obama.
“The failure of this super committee is an embarrassment to Congress and to the American people,” said Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., in a statement. He added, “I find it appalling that grown adults cannot sit down at a table and find a way to negotiate something so important to the future of this nation.”
But in what could be a harbinger of Republican messaging to come, West also said, “President Obama and his administration are to blame for the anticipated failure of the super committee.”
Rather than encouraging bipartisan success, West said, “the president and this administration would rather sit back and watch automatic cuts kick in that will be devastating to our military - ripping $600 billion from defense in 10 years.”
Sources with knowledge of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s activities said on Monday that, barring any last-second developments, the panel will issue a written statement late on Monday afternoon announcing that it has failed, likely after the markets close. The bipartisan panel of 12 lawmakers had been tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings, but Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach agreement.
The inability to reach agreement means that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts are to be triggered beginning in January 2013, including military spending.
But West said, “I am calling on President Obama to step up and be a leader and introduce legislation that will restore these automatic cuts to our military.”