As ThinkProgress and The Progress Report have documented, there is a growing coalition of both Tea Party-backed conservatives and stalwart progressives who are coming together to demand cuts to the bloated defense budget. This coalition was given further momentum in late November, when 23 top conservative leaders wrote an open letter demanding that defense cuts be part of any comprehensive deficit reduction effort.
This morning, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) — “a group of over 165 House Republicans organized” around drafting and promoting conservative legislation — introduced its Spending Reduction Act. RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), joined by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) — who plans to introduce a Senate companion to the bill — explained their legislation in today’s Washington Examiner. They advocate for cutting “non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels” and freezing spending at that level until 2012.
One thing they do not include are any cuts to military spending. In fact, the legislation does not even mention the Department of Defense. This completely flies in the face of the demands of many in the tea party movement and tea party-backed Republican politicians that back cuts in defense spending. Here are just some of these leaders in the Tea Party movement who advocated for defense cuts that did not make it into the RSC’s plan:
– GOP Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), Johnny Isakson (GA), Mark Kirk (IL), Bob Corker (TN), Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY): All of these senators ran for office with the support of the Tea Party and all of them promised at one point or another to either cut waste or reduce the overall defense budget. The RSC plan does neither.
– Numerous GOP Reps., such as Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin Brady (R-TX), and John Campbell (R-CA): Most Republican members of the House of Representatives courted the Tea Party during this recent election. Campbell, a Tea Party-backed Republican, said recently that there should be “huge” cuts to the defense budget. Brady recently unveiled a proposal that would slash defense procurement by 15 percent. And Cantor has said that “everything has to be on the table” for spending cuts. And all three of these congressmen are actually members of the RSC that just ruled defense cuts off the table.
– Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips and Freedomworks CEO Matt Kibbe: As the head of their large right-wing advocacy organizations, Phillips and Kibbe both spent millions of dollars building and driving the Tea Party movement and electing Republicans. Both of them joined onto a letter of major conservative leaders written last month to the GOP leadership requesting that defense cuts be part of any deficit reduction package.
In addition to the growing calls for reducing military spending from the Tea Party movement, it is important to note that most Americans also view cuts to defense spending as the best place to make cuts. In a CBS News/Vanity Fair poll released earlier this month, cutting defense was the most popular option for reducing the deficit; five times as many people want to cut defense than want to cut popular social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
It appears that the leadership of the RSC — and DeMint, who warned shortly after the recent election that Republicans should “heed the call” of the Tea Party — is comfortable allowing Tea Party voters to bring them to power, but is now intent on ignoring what they actually want. The question is, will Tea Party activists demand that the legislators they brought into office listen to them, or will they simply allow their wishes to be ignored?
OutstandingInMyField writes, “My husband’s employer (a defense firm) must be nervous, as they are actively requesting contributions from employees to their PAC.”