WASHINGTON — Working with a heightened sense of urgency, Sen. Jim Inhofe and other Republican defense hawks on Wednesday proposed that the federal government cut its workforce over the next decade to eliminate the need for deep cuts to the military this year.
Inhofe, of Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said President Barack Obama's proposal on Tuesday to replace the looming cuts with a combination of spending reductions and new tax revenue was “a non-starter.”
And though he called the situation “desperate” — with the military warning of widespread furloughs and training and maintenance cutbacks — Inhofe said, “It's not desperate enough that you start raising taxes when you can do it without raising taxes.”
As a result of the debt ceiling deal of 2011, a total of $1.2 trillion in cuts, spread out over 10 years, are set to be triggered in March. The Defense Department will bear about half the burden, and Pentagon leaders have been warning for months about the potential effect.
The GOP proposal, introduced in the House and Senate, would allow government agencies to hire one person for every three that leave through attrition; congressional pay would also be frozen.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said the bill would save $85 billion over 10 years, enough to replace this year's share of the automatic cuts, known as the sequester.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the federal government was on pace to spend $47 trillion over the next 10 years. The question, he said, was whether Congress could cut $1.2 trillion over that period “without destroying the Defense Department.”