House Republicans have introduced a proposal to delay a set of sweeping defense cuts that were triggered by the failure of the so-called "Super Committee" to strike a deficit-reduction deal.
While Democrats decried the move as "short-sighted," Republicans said Congress must act to soften the blow of roughly $600 billion in Pentagon and other security cuts.
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Thursday that cuts of that magnitude will simply slash too deep into the military's operations.
The failure of the Super Committee triggered $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years, split between defense and domestic programs. The cuts were agreed to before the Super Committee even held its first meeting -- they were meant to compel committee members to reach a better deal, so that the defense and other cuts would not have to be implemented. But a deal was never reached.
The $1.2 trillion in cuts are now set to take effect at the beginning of 2013.
To give lawmakers more time to craft a better approach, McKeon has introduced a bill that would cancel the cuts for the first year in 2013 -- by paying for them elsewhere in the budget.
According to the plan, Congress would raise $127 billion over 10 years by shrinking the federal workforce by 10 percent. Congress would then use the savings to make up for $55 billion in averted defense cuts in 2013, as well as $55 billion in averted non-defense cuts.
McKeon prescribes using the leftover money for deficit reduction.
"My bill gives Congress a shot at statesmanship," McKeon said in a statement. "The troops simply don't have any more to give."
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are calling for legislation to stop and offset the mandatory defense cuts altogether.
But Democrats urged Republicans to abide by the original deal, and not make any changes unless Congress comes up with a comprehensive deficit plan.
"Any attempt to delay (the cuts) would be short-sighted and imprudent," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement, adding that the only reason the cuts are in play is because "Republicans ... would not agree to include revenues as part of a deficit reduction deal."
He said the mandatory cuts can be avoided, but only by reaching a "big, balanced deficit reduction solution."
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., gathered dozens of Democratic signatures on a letter to President Obama arguing that the cuts should not be "repealed or amended" without a comprehensive agreement that reduces the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion.
"The failure of Congress to act must have consequences. We stand ready to work with you over the next year to put America back on a firm financial footing and will vote to sustain your veto of any effort to repeal all or part of the scheduled sequester," the letter said.