With less than a month left to replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts scheduled for March. Republicans revealed Wednesday their party is divided over what is more important: protecting the Department of Defense or pushing spending cuts no matter the cost.
Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona continue to speak out about how devastating across-the-board spending cuts would be to the Pentagon, while their GOP colleagues in the House say sequestration, no matter the cost, may be the only way to force spending cuts from the White House.
"Our enemies would love this to happen," Graham said during a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday addressing the severity of across-the-board defense cuts. "I am sure Iran is very supportive of sequestration. I am sure that al Qaeda training camps all over the world would love if [sequestration] would gut the CIA."
The president has proposed Congress enacts a small package of tax increases to raise revenues and enacts some spending cuts now, while punting the sequester a few months to give Congress time to reach a sweeping deal to avoid automatic budget cuts. "That was a nonstarter, and I think he knew that," Inhofe said of the president's proposal.
Most Republicans oppose additional tax increases, but with the Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House,it may be more increases or automatic spending cuts.
And some in the House seem ready to let the sequester take place rather than increase taxes again.
Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp says that he agrees it'd be better to offset the cuts with more thoughtful ones, but he argues that Ayotte, McCain and Graham all have a vested interest into pushing the panic button to stop sequestration.
"In most of those cases, those are states that have a military presence and that is a constituent issue for them," Huelskamp says. "That does not mean it is a national security issue."
Huelskamp says that some cuts have to be made by the March deadline.
"The majority of the caucus agrees that at the minimum, the spending cuts we have already agreed on, must happen," Huelskamp says.
Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole echoed the sentiment.
"We would rather see those cuts happen. It is not the package of cuts we would have preferred," Cole says, pointing to how Republicans in the House passed two separate packages of cuts to replace the sequester. "I can assure you that there will not be a political blink on this," Cole says. "These cuts will occur. The question is just do we want to make them more rational?"
Graham recognized that many in the Republican Party would rather see sequestration happen than no cuts at all. He warned them to be weary.
"If you feel comfortable with cutting the government this way, then you've lost your way as much as the president," Graham says. "What happened to the party of Ronald Reagan who said the number one goal of the federal government is to fund the Department of Defense? What happened to that party? I intend to get that party back."