On the same day all but three Republican senators voted for the House GOP government funding bill that would slash $61 billion from the current federal budget, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who voted for the measure, said he has "serious concerns" about it, specifically what it does to the nation's military.
The senator, top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said that he is so concerned that if Congress opts for yet another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government beyond March 18, as is expected, he will be "compelled to propose an amendment which will then fund our nation's national security requirements" for the rest of the fiscal year which ends September 30. Similar concerns have been voiced by some House Republicans.
"The defense-related spending is not sufficient to carry out the responsibilities of our military, to carry out our defense requirements," McCain charged, and said his amendment would add about $535 billion for "normal defense appropriations," as well as $159 billion reserved specifically for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain criticized the hundreds of millions of dollars in the House measure that are shifted away from war needs and still other items unrelated to defense that the senator said need to be "eliminated."
It's a dilemma a number of Republicans have faced in the GOP drive to ax billions from the federal coffers, especially as most members appear to be in no rush to tackle the real drivers of debt and deficits, Medicare and Medicaid, focusing only on the 12 percent of the budget known as non-defense, discretionary spending.
"We cannot forget we are in two wars," McCain warned, adding, "We cannot force (the military) to live two weeks by two weeks by two weeks."
McCain, long known as a fighter of excessive government spending, said he would be happy to consider further, responsible cuts to the defense budget, but added, "I take a back seat to no one in our zeal to cut spending...but the first priority of government, the first is to ensure the safety of its citizens."