The Hill reports that Rep. Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said today that if given the choice, he would vote to raise taxes before supporting additional cuts to the defense budget:
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Monday he would support tax increases before further cuts to the Pentagon budget.
The hawkish Republican said he “would go for strengthening defense” if forced to choose between voting to raise taxes or forcing the Pentagon to absorb cuts beyond the $350 billion mandated by the August debt deal.
The comment was striking because McKeon, a self-described Ronald Reagan conservative, said he has never voted for a tax hike.
Minutes earlier, McKeon told an audience at an American Enterprise Institute forum that “the military could not sustain” cuts beyond those mandated in the debt deal. That agreement would enforce another $600 billion in cuts on national security agency budgets if the congressional supercommittee fails to reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in federal cuts.
When the debt-ceiling deal was passed in early August, many on the right lamented that the supercommittee process and the accompanying trigger mechanism, which would disproportionately affect defense spending, might sow discord in the GOP ranks by pitting pro-defense Republicans (like McKeon) against their anti-tax colleagues (Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, etc.). Obviously, the two positions are not mutually exclusive, but because the supercommittee’s task has been structured in such a way that Republicans will likely be forced to pick a side, it should be interesting to see where members stand as the committee’s work progresses. Supercommittee member Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) has already threatened to quit if further defense cuts are put on the table. Democrats, meanwhile, are clearly intent on including tax increases as part of the supercommittee’s final deficit reduction package, due in late November. And as Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) recently suggested, Democrats do not believe the consequences of the supercommittee trigger, which could impose up to $700 billion in automatic defense cuts, would be “devastating to our priorities.”
This post has been updated.