Conservatives Pushing End-Run Around Mandated Military Spending Cuts If Super Committee Fails

In reaction to the looming deadline on the super committee — potentially triggering $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts if the group fails to make a $1.5 trillion dent in the deficit by Thanksgiving — military spending boosters are devising a plan to avoid triggered cuts to defense budgets. Here’s how it would work: 1) Hope for the super committee to fail, 2) Push doomsday warnings about mandated defense “sequestration,” 3) Get Congress to pass a new law negating the automatic cuts.

In the plan, the “sequestration” — a fancy word for cuts — of $600 billion in military spending could be avoided. Speaking with Foreign Policy yesterday, a former top official in Donald Rumsfeld‘s Defense Department, Dov Zakheim, promoted the idea, outlining a GOP strategy in which failure of the super committee is preferable:

If there’s sequestration, Congress has a year to move out from under it. If the Super Committee actually strikes a deal [that includes some defense cuts], it will be exceedingly difficult to undo the deal.

The strategy is something Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and other Republicans have been suggesting since the middle of last month. Yesterday, McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reiterated the message:

The sequestration is not engraved on golden tablets. It is a notional aspiration. And those of us — and I think we’d have sufficient support to prevent those kind of cuts from being enacted because of the impact it would have on national security.

Watch the video:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said there “would be bipartisan interest” in dodging the triggered cuts. While Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) called sequestration the “Sword of Damocles over everyone’s head,” he refused to comment on the possibility of negating the debt deal. One Democratic aide, however, described the potential GOP move as “giving up prematurely [on the super committee] and anticipating failure.”

If Congress did indeed produce new legislation nullifying parts of the Budget Control Act of August 2011 (the debt deal that created the super committee), Obama should veto it. By issuing a veto threat now, Obama could put pressure on the super committee to fulfill its mission and make the more than trillion dollars in deficit reduction.