Rep. Buck McKeon: Sequestration looms over decision on Syria

How will defense cuts factor into vote on Capitol Hill?


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 5, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: In the meantime, the Senate is expected to get the Syrian resolution this Friday. The whole Senate votes on this now. It was the Foreign Relations Committee that handled the chore yesterday.

Well, this would then put it on fast track for a full vote next week. A different story, though, in the House, where it's facing a far tougher fight.

Buck McKeon is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and can attest to that.

So, Chairman, no easy sell either for you, your committee members or the full House, huh?


I told Secretary Kerry several months ago, when he first was talking about this in one of our briefings, that they would have a rough time getting a vote through the House to support going into Syria. They would also have a very tough time getting a vote through to pay for it.

Now we have seen a lot of information coming out. There's been a lot of intelligence, there's been a lot of push, and I think it's going to be a very, very busy week next week.

But I still have some real concerns about -- I heard that they said they could come up with the funding to do this. We have got different numbers as to how much it would be. Whatever it is, it's going to be a lot of money, and they haven't really said how they're going to do it. All they have said is they will come to Congress and talk about it.

But the thing that -- the elephant in the room is the sequestration that is hanging over the heads of our military. The president in the last couple of years surged troops into Afghanistan and cut the military budget. He flew flights over Libya and cut the military budget, changed the strategy to a Pacific strategy, which puts more emphasis on the Navy, while we're cutting the Navy back to the smallest they have been since World War I, and cut the military budget.

So, we're looking at over a trillion dollars of cuts out of the military, and then now we're turning around and asking to perform more missions. It doesn't make sense.


CAVUTO: I'm sorry, sir, but you're not buying Secretary of State Kerry's line that the Arab League and Saudi Arabia more to the point will pick up a big chunk of this, if not all of it? You don't think so?

MCKEON: You know, I remember when we went into Iraq we were told that the money from Iraq would pay for it. Never happened.

CAVUTO: Didn't happen. That's a very good point, yes.


MCKEON: I have real, real questions, when we haven't fixed sequestration, we have got a C.R. coming up at the end of the month. We haven't been able to pass any of the appropriation bills through the full process, the House has passed several, but not in the Senate. And then we have got the debt ceiling increase.

We have got a lot of problems hanging over us, lots of different ways for people to go, and yet this just kind of takes the focus off of some of the other things.


CAVUTO: Well, you mentioned -- you did mention those defense cuts, sir.

And there's a countertheory here, and I will just bounce it off you because it's a little crazy, but it's -- well, it's my crazy theory -- that what if the president really doesn't want this resolution to pass, that in his heart of hearts he is doing it because he made the red line comment, even though he says humanity made it. We got him on tape saying it.

But, leaving that aside, that he really -- his heart isn't in this and if he is rejected on this, he will be free to continue scaling back operations, scaling back defense funding, scaling back our commitments, and that you would be doing him a favor, what do you think of that?

MCKEON: I would hate to think that that is behind this.

No, I was in the meeting with president in the Cabinet Room Tuesday and he was pushing pretty hard for this, as were the rest of his administration. I understand -- I saw last night where he was saying his credibility is not on the line, it's not his red line, and then at the same time they play his speech where last year he said, there's a red line. Don't cross the red line. And then he says, my credibility is not question.

I'm a little confused about this. I told the president in the meeting last week that he has to go before the American people and tell them, eyeball to eyeball -- he is the one that has all the information. He is the one that is voted on by all of people in the country. He is the commander in chief.

He needs to go to the American people and explain eyeball to eyeball how he came to this decision to what he wants to do. And right now they're not behind him. I did a town hall meeting last night. And I just threw out a question out as a poll as I was talking to people. And they didn't want to go into Syria 2-1.

So, he has got a chore ahead of him. I understand he has canceled his trip to California. He's going to focus on it next week. It might be a little bit too late. But my big concern is, I just don't think you can keep asking the military to do more with less, and expect them to be able to keep doing it.

CAVUTO: All right, we will watch very closely, Chairman.

And just a quick reference with the chairman's remarks, that he meant to say the president of the United States is voted on by everybody, not like a district where they vote on their congressman and no one else. Everyone votes for the president of the United States, and 52 percent of the voters voted for this one.

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