This past Friday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) guest hosted CNBC’s Squawk Box. The senator covered a variety of topics while hosting the show, including his belief that Republicans should and will alter the recently passed health care bill instead of simply repealing it.
At one point, the Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen explained that the show received e-mails asking them to ask Corker “what he wants to cut” in order to reduce the budget deficit. Corker responded that “everything need to be on the table.” Kernen followed up by asking, “Everything’s on the table? Defense? Entitlements?” Corker once again replied, “Everything! I mean look, Secretary Gates will tell you there’s a lot of waste there. We need to streamline it”:
KERNEN: We get e-mails coming in saying, “You’re going to have Corker on. For once ask a Republican what he wants to cut.” […] The rap is all you say is cut but you’ve got no idea what to cut. What would you specifically cut?
CORKER: Well, first of all I think everything needs to be on the table.
KERNEN: Everything’s on the table? Defense? Entitlements?
CORKER: Everything! I mean, look, Secretary Gates will tell you there’s a lot of waste there. We need to streamline it.
KERNEN: Other than waste, though?
CORKER: Well, obviously that’s going to be more difficult, let’s face it. Because it’s our national security, that’s the most important thing we do in Washington, but everything we do needs to be looked at. So I would say nothing’s off the table, nothing.
Corker’s sentiments are in line with at least five Republicans running for Senate this year. Last week, Oregon nominee Jim Huffman called for defense cuts, citing the “vaste amount of money wasted in defense.” Earlier that week, Pennsylvania candidate Pat Toomey criticized Congress for voting for “programs the Pentagon doesn’t even want.” The week before, Illinois candidate Mark Kirk said we need “across the board” reductions in defense spending. 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 PBS’s Gwen Ifill that cutting defense spending “has to be on the table.” All of these candidates are stating positions in direct opposition to the GOP’s much-touted “Pledge To America,” which explicitly exempts the Department of Defense from waste-cutting.
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. The SDTF — which comprises Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and some of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts — 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.