McCain To Obama: Quit Threatening To Hold The Defense Budget Hostage

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Republican Sen. John McCain hit out at President Barack Obama on Tuesday for threatening to hold the defense budget hostage because it doesn’t satisfy every White House priority.

Speaking at the American Action Forum, McCain said that while he desperately wants to remove sequestration “once and for all,” in the meantime, troops defending America shouldn’t be burdened with insufficient resources because of undue adherence to politics. This is why McCain has endorsed the use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to evade limits imposed by sequestration, despite previously labeling it a gimmick, The Hill reports.

“As a recent White House policy statement said, ‘the president has been very clear, he will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending,'” McCain said, according to The Hill. “Such intransigence reveals a troubling misalignment of priorities on the part of the White House. It is the first duty of the federal government to protect the nation.”

The OCO is just one of the items the White House finds objectionable. Another element includes restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay. But unlike the House version of the bill, the Senate version, under the direction of McCain, asks the Obama administration to provide a closure plan to Congress for approval. Once approved, the Obama administration could transfer detainees to a facility on U.S. soil. This measure has placed McCain far outside of a Republican camp that’s largely in support of keeping detainees locked away in Guantanamo Bay. (RELATED: McCain Snubs Republicans, Sides With Obama Administration On Gitmo)

The full Senate may consider the defense budget as early as this week, since it recently passed the Senate Armed Services Committee by a 22 to 4 vote. In total, the budget authorizes $523 billion for base levels and $89 billion for the OCO. Obama, in contrast, requested $551 billion for the base and only $51 billion for the war fund.

On the House side, other administration officials have kicked up a fuss over the base budget’s adherence to sequestration limits, while sneaking in spending through the OCO. Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), criticized “budget gimmicks,” noting that members on the aisle have expressed similar concerns with relying on the emergency war fund to make up the slack.

In the letter to top legislators on the House Appropriations Committee, Donovan argued that lawmakers need to consider developing a budget to mimic the deal struck by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in 2013, rather than proceeding with a base budget about 7 percent less than the funding Obama suggested.

Some groups, like Citizens Against Government Waste, hope for OCO use to end entirely.

“Our position is that the whole thing should end–that all of the funding should go through the regular budget process,” Sean Kennedy, director of research for Citizens Against Government Waste, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We think that sequestration should continue.”

The National Defense Authorization Act has managed to make it through Congress for 53 years in a row, and according to McCain, this year shouldn’t be any different.

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