Since President Obama announced his intention to enact a “spending freeze” on non-security domestic discretionary spending in the federal budget, progressives have been calling on him to include the massive budgets of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. As CAP Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb has noted, these agencies “are responsible for a large and increasing share of the discretionary portion of the federal budget,” so by excluding them, “the president’s spending freeze will have a marginal effect.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has echoed this call. Korb has suggested that the White House has been reluctant to exclude these accounts out of “fear of appearing weak on defense.” However, yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) — who would likely be leading such attacks against Democrats — said that he agreed with progressives:
GREGORY: The question of spending and commonsense steps that could be taken, you heard David Axelrod say, “Look, the Republicans voted against paying as you go. They voted against a commission to control the debt.” They suggest a spending freeze, the president’s budget will. And Speaker Pelosi has said that should not exempt defense spending, it should include it. What do you say? Should the spending freeze be a good start but be expanded?
BOEHNER: I think the President’s proposal on freezing nonsecurity domestic spending is a good first step, but it’s only $15 billion for each of the next three years. I think we can do much better than that. I don’t think any agency of the federal government should be exempt from rooting out wasteful spending or unnecessary spending. And I, frankly, I would agree with it at the Pentagon. There’s got to be wasteful spending there, unnecessary spending there.
Korb has laid out nine reductions the Pentagon could take to cut spending. Yglesias notes that a significant amount of defense spending occupies “a middle ground between ‘waste’ and ‘defending our freedom,’” and will require a tough debate about U.S. priorities. (HT: Steve Benen)