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WASHINGTON – House Republicans threw U.S. troops into the middle of the debt ceiling showdown on Saturday, accusing President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats of “neglecting” the Armed Forces and putting readiness at risk. In a rare and hastily called Saturday press conference with fellow Republicans in the Capitol, Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, of California, said Democrats were “shortchanging” the U.S. military and threatening readiness.McKeon defended the House bill sponsored by Speaker John Boehner, R.-Ohio, that narrowly passed late Friday. The Senate rejected that bill within hours and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, hoped to pass his alternative bill after midnight Saturday. Leaders from both chambers would then have to negotiate a single compromise bill and put it to another vote. While members are battling to pass a bill by Aug. 2 to keep troop paychecks coming, House Republicans sought to highlight the longer-term stakes: hundreds of millions of dollars in defense cuts over the next 10 years.“Let me put this plainly,” McKeon said, flanked by other Republicans. “If Senator Reid’s plan passes, if we stand idly by while this Administration pays down its domestic spending spree with the blood and sweat of our troops, our military will break.”“We are determined we will provide for national defense,'' said Rep. Bill Young, R.-Fla., a Republican defense stalwart. McKeon, in prepared remarks, said, “Our debt has exploded, while our military has withered. …We owe them our liberty, but this Administration treats them as just another number on the chalkboard.”

Boenher's office, on the speaker's blog, wrote, "It is time for Democrats in the Senate to get serious and…begin putting America on a more sustainable fiscal path without compromising our national security."baronk@stripes.osd.mil

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