Lawmaker: Panel Ignored ‘Elephant in the Room’

Lawmaker: Panel Ignored ‘Elephant in the Room’

A congressman says a Republican-led defense panel in Congress this week ignored the “elephant in the room” in rejecting his proposal to give the Pentagon more flexibility to deal with automatic budget cuts.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., sponsored an amendment to let the Defense Department transfer as much as $20 billion across accounts to better deal with the reductions, known as sequestration.

The House Armed Services Committee voted 45–16 against the measure earlier this week as part of a marathon debate to amend, or mark-up, its version of the 2014 defense authorization bill. The legislation sets policy goals and spending targets for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“I am sorry it’s 1:30 in the morning before we face the elephant in the room,” Cooper said during the hearing that began June 5, referring to sequestration. He called the across-the-board cuts “arbitrary stupidity” and their effect on building such items as naval ships “insanity,” and criticized committee members for failing “to do anything about it.”

The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That’s in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation. The first installment of the automatic cuts began March 1 after lawmakers were unable to reach an alternative agreement on taxes and spending.

In a statement e-mailed June 7 to Military​.com, Cooper said the amendment failed because lawmakers from both political parties refuse to heed warnings from Pentagon officials that the reductions will weaken the military.

“My amendment was the only comprehensive attempt during the entire 16-hour markup to reduce the harm caused by sequestration,” he said. “Although the amendment passed on voice vote, when members could vote anonymously, it failed on recorded vote when they had to go on record.”

Cooper added, “Both Republicans and Democrats have been unwilling to reach a grand bargain that would eliminate sequestration entirely, or even to offer government agencies flexibility so that the sequestration cuts are not so arbitrary and harmful.”

During the hearing, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman, praised Cooper for being a “very serious” member of Congress.

“I have the utmost respect for him and he’s really trying to do something here to help this problem that we’re confronting,” McKeon said. But the proposal “really doesn’t solve the problem,” he said. “What we really need to do is get rid of the sequestration.”

The committee’s bill, H.R.1960, would authorize $552 billion in defense spending, including related energy programs, and $86 billion in war spending. That’s higher than what’s allowed under the automatic cuts. The measure would be paid for by reducing non-defense portions of the federal budget — a move opposed by the Democratic-led Senate and White House.

Like the White House’s, the House panel’s spending plan assumes Republicans and Democrats will reach a deal to end sequestration, even though the parties remain at an impasse. Defense Department officials have begun planning for scenarios in which the reductions continue into next year.

The Pentagon this year is projected to spend $574 billion. That figure, which includes a base budget and separate funding for the war in Afghanistan, known as oversees contingency operations, is about $41 billion less than what it originally sought due to the first round of decade-long automatic cuts that took effect in March.

As a result of those reductions and higher-than-expected war costs, the Pentagon is asking Congress for permission to transfer $9.6 billion. Lawmakers may vote on the request on next week, according to industry sources.

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When companies going the extra mile to reduce their tax footprint is celebrated as A Good Thing; what do we expect to happen? Many of our winning companies are multi-national now, and keeping multi-national money overseas means the American tax base is based on the domestic product of American companies and overseas companies making stuff here. However, our defense needs are based on an international force, not a domestic one. There’s a mismatch right there, not even factoring in the increasing social spending costs.

One way to arrest the ballooning healthcare costs which affect the American people (and Tricare, government workers and private employers) is to increase public health. Doctor residencies are largely paid for by government agencies (http://​www​.ncbi​.nlm​.nih​.gov/​p​m​c​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​P​M​C​1​4​9​5​0​35/); and perhaps instead of paying for residencies in dermatology, plastic surgery, radiology and the like; national resources should go to primary care first. Didn’t Franklin speak of pennies of prevention against pounds of cure?

Not sure how to fix the rest of the welfare state, since that requires jobs and a human capital base that can actually fulfill those jobs. Creating peasant-work is not a long term solution for America, and peasants can be replaced with immigrants or automation/labor-saving devices.

As for defense, one way out may be to increase cost of using government health care for dependents after you leave the service. The priority should be the core patients: the active duty and the veterans. As for installation costs and procurement costs, well…

This is beyond stupid. The cuts are still going to happen, yet 45 of those on the committee think it makes more sense to arbitrarily cut without any thought? Surely they can’t be that moronic, there has to be something else in that amendment?

The issue is, every congressman thinks about their seat and district first, and won’t allow cancellation of a program in their district, no matter how wasteful. And since no-one shares districts, they’ll never agree on anything other than blanket cuts that hurt all equally, under the twist of logic that their district isn’t any worse off than the others, even if all they do is produce surplus materiel.

How heck is anything going to be done with this sort of behavior in the US Congress. Their so self-fish and self-centered. Their disgrace to Congressmen and women that came before them.

Or they’re so obstinate as to either get what they want or keep the suffering going until the next election season.

The question is whether coopers amendment would have passed with support from democrats and whether it would have done something we aren’t seeing written down.

Remember in politics the title of a bill or amendment often has little to do with what it actually does.

This is the end-game of political machinations friend Brendan carefully avoids detailing. The ‘why’ here is the Stupid Party went along with the Evil Party in agreeing to the sequestration thinking that Shirley No One would place National Defense in jeopardy over budget negotiations. But the Evil Party knew they didn’t give a rat’s a** about defense and suckered the Stupid Party into the deal thinking that would be the way the Evil Party could get the funding for their Evil Entitlement-Social Spending Complex despite the Stupid Party’s objections. Now it turns out the Stupid Party is less dependent on Defense Spending issues than the Evil Party is on Social Spending Issues. Obama hatched this scheme, the Dems own it, and no amount of spin by the Evil Party Operators with Bylines can change that. Yeah, it’s bad, but that’s a nice petard ya got going off there.

You make interesting points as usual blight. In regard to the overall issue of “fixing the welfare state”, we’ve taken a giant leap forward by implementing sequestration. The more that I see of it, and politicians responses to it, the more that I think that it’s the ONLY way forward. Politicians, by their very nature, are not built to cut budgets — just to increase them, whatever verbiage may spout from their mouths. Therefore keeping sequestration is essential.

It’s just as Churchill said of capitalism, it’s a lousy system, but it’s the best one we have to date.


Sorry Rob, the ones that came before them were just as bad and self-seeking. It’s the nature of politics, it attracts the very lowest to the very highest.


Methinks the Stupid Party has it’s own fair share of evil dudes, and vice versa.


I prefer tax-and-spend-Democrats and borrow-and-spend-Republicans to Evil Party and Stupid Party, but I guess they work. But, Sarge, what makes you think the military and veterans have not also become a part of the permanent entitlement/welfare state? The Founding Fathers believed in the citizen-soldier construct (the national guard or militia model), not a permanent military, and when the war was over you went home. (Remember — a permanent military results in perpetual war and bankrupts a nation through blood and treasure?) The whole idea of work for 20 and collect for 40 to 60 is neither economically sustainable or right. With life expectancy nearly double what it was when the colonies formed, two 20-year careers is the new norm, with income form both covering your retirement and medical needs. The taxpayer should not be burdened with paying the “full cost” of your needs after you’ve left the service, unless you’re fully disabled.

Just as small time republicans such as yourself are the ones getting it in the neck I think everyone is happy — democrats and republicans LOL

remember it’s cradle to grave socialism for the military and capitalism for everyone else — isn’t that what the constitution promises ?

Macroeconomically speaking, its all a wash — both what Cooper proposed and what the House GOP wants to do. Either way, the level of government spending is the same. It is only a question of how you divide the balance against what gets cut. Ultimately, people will move with their feet from places where there are not jobs to where there are jobs, and the more efficiently you can mitigate the structural pain, the better off you are. There are some who won’t be satisfied until national defense is gutted outright, but most folks are not that insane.

I guess it’s OK by you to think that famlies that have lived on welfare for generations WITHOUT CONTRIBUTING ANYTHING is fine. Well, I guess if you consider adding to the population every year a contribution; then yes, they contribute, and we reward them with a bigger welfare check!

They reflect to people who elected them.

Congress is a reflection of the people who elect them. We get the government we elect. Plain and simple. Can you imagine a member of Congress running for election on the platform: “I pledge to not bring home one federal dollar for my district/state in the interest in the country, as a whole.”

They’re certainly trying.

“Washington is too big…but not too big to line our pockets, my friends”

I believe that families on welfare should do something to earn that check, be it cleaning the streets and grafitti off walls, cleaning vacant lots of debris, or whatever. When he was governor of California Reagan called it workfare. No one should receive a free pass. But I also believe we have corporate welfare, too.

As a nation we spent and spent and spent, much for the wrong reasons and wrong things until collapse was upon us and then turned to a hail mary budget gimmick to force what should be common sense budget reform. Lacking that as usual we face the consequences of that hail mary and as the only option available it is the only good option. Now, facing the pain of decades of irresponsible spending some are still seeking to put their heads back in the sand by seeking ways to avoid the cuts and continue illegal spending. Warnings about the dangers of congressional spending and the coining of currency by private banks by Jefferson and other founding fathers have gone largely unheeded, their warned consequences are now in evidence and the results of poor governance are upon us. — - — - End the end and lacking a tailored and reasonable plan to reduce spending to legal levels and return the US to a solid economical footing the only available answer is to cut 10% off the top. In the end the words ‘Stop Spending’ spoken, written and echoed by millions come to mind.


Retirees aren’t the biggest problem. Cost saving analysis breakdown.

The solution is for people to stop looking for one simple answer to a very big complicated problem. That pretty much goes for every obstacle we face in government on the federal scale. Some modest changes to many areas could reap big savings. Simple things like modest co-pays and premiums on tricare would result in big cost savings. No more too big to fail programs because they lead to fiascos like the F35. Gutting the staffing fat from the pentagon. Lots of ways to save money without actually getting rid of any one thing wholesale.


I agree that sequestration seems to be the only way to force the politicians to cut spending. The politicians reaction makes me want to cut twice as much each year until they get the point that they have to start spending money in a more intelligent manner.

I bet they delete this post as it points out the ugly truth of the way the 2 political parties act.

Both parties are happy becuase they can blame the situation on the other party. Every politician has an excuse.

Do you really think a militia army would stand a chance in modern warfare? Sure a farmer could operate a musket but how about operating a tank or a tanker? Note that the militias didn’t perform well in mostbattles of our revolutionary war.

But you are correct that the ongoing retirement system is not very sustainable.

Note that even a poorly-trained regular army fails as well.

Washington couldn’t hold New York with his continentals or his militia forces. In the south, Gates messed up militia placement at Camden and nobody’s ever looked at militia quite the same way. Militias are best served by fading into the background and piecemeal shredding an occupying army.

On what? More Littoral Combat Ships?


Eliminating gerrymandering and using voronoi clusters to assign districts based on uniform population size instead of carving out political enclaves would go a long way towards putting sane moderates into play, instead of fringers on both ends unwilling to get work done.

I agree with you providing an Eisenstein doesn’t join the militia. Some folks I trained in state militias when I was in ANGR training, were smarter that average. And they had big colorful patches to their uniforms. They were not afraid of big government or showing off their local State patriotism! They are our back bone! Anything else is puny malfeasance. 2nd Amendment forever!

I must admit, I’d vote with my “feet” or (tires) more accurately; by moving to the state I felt better protected my rights. If you study the old US Civil War, many northerners joined the South because they believed in State’s Powers. They had no identity with slavery, because there was none in the North. So the idea that the Civil War was fought over slavery was inaccurate to a certain point, That point was property rights — this was unfortunate, because no human being should be labeled as “property”, but none the less, under our Constitutional liberties — property is God — literally. So the North could have averted disaster, by simply paying the South reparations for losing their slaves, and the South could still have implemented share cropping — which was worse than slavery by many standards — but at least they(the share cropper) could escape this hell after that. This would have been vastly cheaper than the Civil War — but when do we ever go for “smarter –cheaper” — I mean honestly!


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