McCain Punctures Myth of Automatic Defense Cuts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 13 2011 5:38 PM

McCain Punctures Myth of Automatic Defense Cuts

Ah, the "automatic defense cuts" of the supercommittee deal. You remember those. Originally, the "triggers" that would accompany a committee failure to cut $1.2 trillion were half non-defense discretionary, half defense. Republicans complained, so the "defense" cuts became "security" cuts -- less politically bulletproof homeland security cash put onto the bonfire.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

Here in the Senate today, John McCain emphasized something important: Even those cuts aren't mandatory.

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If there is a failure on the part of the super committee, we will be amongst the first on the floor to nulify that provision. The Congress is not bound by this. It’s something we passed, we can reverse it.

The "we," you can see, is McCain and Rand Paul. That would be this Rand Paul:

The compromise is for conservatives to admit that the military budget is going to have to be cut. We've doubled military spending. I believe in a strong national defense, but conservatives will have to compromise, and we will have to cut military spending.

You get the sense that the moment when Republicans were ready to cut defense -- heresy! bold! -- is slipping a little bit. The party's establishment frontrunner right now, Mitt Romney, is foursquare against these cuts, and his own defense plan calls for more spending.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.