Defense & National Security

Graham ‘disappointed in the Republican party’ for debt deal

Graham 'disappointed in the Republican party' for debt deal

The willingness of Republicans to agree to sequestration defense cuts proves the GOP has lost sight of the proper role of government, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week.

At an event hosted by the Weekly Standard and Concerned Veterans for America Tuesday afternoon, Graham took his own party to task for agreeing to last year’s Budget Control Act, which used “devastating” defense cuts as collateral for a deficit reduction deal.

“The party of Ronald Reagan would have never done the following: if a bunch of politicians failed to reach an agreement over a $1.2 trillion spending package, let’s punish the military beyond recognition,” he said.

Graham is one of the 19 Senate Republicans in the enviable position of having not voted for sequestration, which passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate. His close colleagues John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) both voted for the deal.

Most of the no votes in the Senate came from its most conservative members: Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn both voted against sequestration, as did Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Rand Paul (Ky.)

But the 28 Republicans who did vote for the Budget Control Act mean that, “as a party, we have slipped from what the role of the federal government should be,” Graham said. “When we do a federal budget, knowing that everything is on the table, the first thing a Republican should ask, I think any American should ask, is ‘how did the Defense Department fare.’ Because without national security, social security is an illusion.”

At the event, Graham also admitted for the first time that he would be willing to countenance some additional cuts to defense to reduce the deficit–but not without overall reform and careful consideration of U.S. security needs.

“If we could come up with an entitlement reform deal that saves Social Security and Medicare and deals with Medicaid, and sets some spending limits that are more sustainable, I would entertain going past $487 billion (the total defense budget reduction implemented last year),” he said. “But the one concept I will not entertain is having a military that doesn’t make us an exceptional nation.”

Graham said it didn’t make sense to make serious cuts to defense while still at war in Afghanistan, with nuclear threats from Iran, uncertainty in Syria, and the outcome of the “Arab Spring” still unclear.

“I would like to know some general idea of how this movie ends,” Graham said. “If we don’t know how these things are unfolding, then I think we’re making a very poor national security decision driven by budgets.”

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