Armed Services Committee Senators Call For a Deal

Yesterday, a group of six senators from both parties signed a letter to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging them to help replace the sequester with a smart and bipartisan debt reduction plan. The letter, signed by the Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) along with Committee members Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) as well as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), warns of the damage sequestration will cause and the importance of finding a solution in the upcoming months.

But instead of calling for a repeal of the sequester, the Senators commit themselves to a much more productive goal: a comprehensive debt reduction plan. The Senators argue that the consequences of the fiscal cliff are so severe that all ideas should be on the table.

We face a critical challenge in the next few months:  balancing the need to reduce the deficit with the need to safeguard important priorities, particularly protecting our national security, vital domestic programs, and our economic recovery.  We believe it is imperative to enact a bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid the severe economic damage that would result from the implementation of sequestration. Any deficit reduction package should be long term and should provide as much certainty as possible for businesses and consumers.

The Congressional Budget Office has already warned sequestration in combination with the expiration of current tax policy could send our fragile economy back into a recession and raise unemployment above 9 percent, and the administration agrees that sequestration “would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”  Failure to act to address the debt would result in sequestration taking effect in January 2013 with significant detrimental impact on our fragile economic recovery.  According to a report done for the Aerospace Industries Association, if sequestration is allowed to occur in January, the nation will lose approximately 1 million jobs because of defense budget cuts and 1 million jobs because of domestic cuts in 2013....

Sequestration will endanger the lives of America's service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services.  Meeting this challenge will require real compromise, and we do not believe that Congress and the president can afford to wait until January to begin to develop a short term or long term sequestration alternative.  All ideas should be put on the table and considered.  Accordingly, we urge you to press between now and November the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score any bipartisan proposals forwarded to them so that Congress may evaluate these plans.

We believe it is important to send a strong signal of our bipartisan determination to avoid or delay sequestration and the resulting major damage to our national security, vital domestic priorities, and our economy.

The letter can be found here.