The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is tying the Syria vote to sequestration, pledging to only vote for an authorization of force if funding is restored to America’s armed forces.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) asked the White House on Sunday for a meeting on the mandatory Pentagon budget cuts, which he has steadfastly opposed, and President Obama’s Syria strike plans.
“As Congress debates whether to authorize a strike on Syria in response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, much has been said and written about America’s special role in the world. Simply put, the blessings of prosperity obligate the U.S. to enforce the peace it seeks,” McKeon wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning.
“…That said, consider the condition of the military that President Obama seeks to deploy against the Assad regime. Common sense dictates that if you increase how often the military is used at a time when the military budget is being cut, you should restore the funding or you’re asking for trouble. It’s the same with driving a car: If you put 175,000 miles on your Chevy and spend less on maintenance as time passes, soon that Chevy’s going to be up on blocks.”
McKeon noted Obama’s three slashes at the defense budget in his five years, adding up to $1.2 trillion less for the military.
And his request for strikes comes as another $50 billion in cuts loom next year for the Defense Department.
“Americans should be uncomfortable with the notion of deploying a depleted military to combat without a commitment on the part of the president and Congress to restore its funding. It’s irrelevant if the plan in Syria ultimately calls for cruise missile strikes, airstrikes or boots on the ground. The American people have always demanded that if the U.S. military goes to war, troops are provided with the equipment and support necessary to win,” McKeon wrote.
The chairman stressed that he shares “President Obama’s concern about the barbaric use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.”
I also care deeply about U.S. standing in a region where credibility counts. When the president drew his red line, he put America’s cards on the table.
“However, I am equally concerned about the condition of a military that has been chewed up from budget cuts and years of fighting. Mr. Obama is now asking Congress to respond to the Assad regime’s brutality with military force. But the day before he asked Congress to authorize this mission, he told our troops that their salaries will be almost 1% less than expected next year,” McKeon continued.
“This is unacceptable. We cannot keep asking U.S. troops to perform dangerous missions while multiple rounds of defense cuts, including sequestration, hang over their heads. There must be a balance between the missions the president asks the military to do and the missions the president is willing to fund. You don’t conduct military campaigns with half a heart or half a wallet. Or, as Napoleon put it: ‘When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.'”
At a meeting with other congressional leaders last week, McKeon said he brought up sequestration with Obama, who told the chairman that he wanted to end the military cuts.
“I am taking him at his word, which is why I have asked for a follow-up meeting to discuss specifically how he intends to restore military spending,” said McKeon. “I need to understand just how committed the president is to negotiating a resolution on sequester in order to make an informed decision about my vote to use military force in Syria. I understand that we can’t lessen the damage of sequester before taking action in Syria. But we have a near-term opportunity to do so.”
“I plan to ask the president, in light of the weight of his decision to intervene in Syria, for his commitment to address sequestration as part of any deal on the debt ceiling. If he makes that commitment, then he has my support. If not, I won’t be able to vote to send our over-stretched and under-funded military into action. The opportunity to undo the harm of the budget sequester is unlikely to come around again.”