WASHINGTON – Just two days after Congress left town without solving the problem of sequestration, Democratic and Republican leaders on the Senate Armed Services Committee promised publicly that they’re still working on the issue.
In a “don’t panic yet” letter to Senate leadership on Monday, committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and four other top committee lawmakers said they are “working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security” and stated that “all ideas should be put on the table and considered.”
The sequestration cuts – more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years – are scheduled to go into effect in January. They would trim more than $54 billion in defense spending in 2013 alone, and have caused considerable concern among Pentagon planners and defense contractors.
In the letter, the senators said they felt it’s important to “send a strong signal of our bipartisan determination to avoid or delay sequestration” to the public.
“Sequestration will endanger the lives of America's service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services,” the letter states. “Meeting this challenge will require real compromise, and we do not believe that Congress and the president can afford to wait until January to begin to develop a short term or long term sequestration alternative.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both chambers have lamented the possibility of sequestration cuts for the last nine months, but have failed to reach any realistic alternative plans in that time. Congress is not expected to take up the issue again until after the November elections.