This past Sunday, the Illinois Democratic and Republican nominees for U.S. Senate Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Alexi Giannoulias debated a variety of issues on NBC’s Meet The Press.
At one point, host David Gregory pressed Kirk about his support for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, rightly stating that doing so would conflict with the congressman’s stated goal of lowering the U.S. budget deficit. Kirk responded by noting the need for “spending restraint” to rein in the budget deficit, and complained that congressional leaders are “not interested” in it “at all.” He then went on to explain, “I back spending restraint across the board. At the DOD, like no second engine for the F-35 Fighter, closing down joint forces command, across the board reductions“:
GREGORY: Congressman, how could we afford to make permanent tax extensions now, with the Bush tax cuts in this climate?
KIRK: Because especially in this climate, we have Congressional leaders that are not interested in spending restraint at all. For example, I back spending restraint across the board. At the DOD like no second engine for the F-35 Fighter, closing down joint forces command, across the board reductions.
Kirk’s statement makes him the third Republican running for Senate this year who has gone on the record as saying that defense cuts are necessary in order to deal with the budget deficit. Earlier this month, Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA) told a local news station that reducing the deficit “begins with the Department of Defense.” A few days later, Kentucky candidate Rand Paul criticized Republicans for exempting the military from waste-trimming, telling Gwen Ifill that cutting defense spending “has to be on the table.”
If these Republicans are really serious about reining in the defense budget, they can look to The Sustainable Defense Task (SDTF) report released earlier this year. Assembled by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and consisting of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts, the SDTF identified nearly $1 trillion in waste that can be cut from the defense budget over the next ten years simply by eliminating outdated Cold War-era programs. They could also reference a recent report by CAP experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.
A defense consultant who was at a recent meeting about the defense budget at the Pentagon told Reuters that pressure from the president’s deficit commission combined with the Tea Party mvovement may have a “significant impact in terms of accelerating the contraction in defense funding“:
“The grim reality is that the midterm elections are going to have a significant impact in terms of accelerating the contraction in defense funding,” said Jim McAleese, a Virginia-based defense consultant. [...]
But he acknowledged growing pressure on defense spending from a presidential deficit-reduction panel, the Tea Party movement, and the upcoming elections, said McAleese, who attended the meeting.