With Congress soon facing a vote over military action in Syria, questions over funding and the budget will soon follow.
Approval of a military campaign in Syria would likely call for restoring military funding that was cut in recent years, as part of a policy for transforming the military and for cutting spending.
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) expressed his thoughts on the matter with CNN.
“We cannot keep asking the military to perform mission after mission with a sequestration and military cuts hanging over their heads,” McKeon told CNN Monday. “We have to take care of our own people first.”
In speaking with CNN McKeon was clear his concern is about military preparedness for future missions, not its current capability.
“I have no concerns of their capability. They’re the strongest, best equipped, best trained military,” he said. “What I’m looking at is what they’ve been hit with the last couple years. Where will they be the next time they’re asked?”
McKeon complained, “We’re cutting back $1 trillion out of our military, asking them to do more with less.”
“That has to stop,” he said, urging President Barack Obama to end sequestration cuts to the military and other discretionary government spending but excluding entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
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The continuing resolution that is funding the government runs out at the end of the 2013 fiscal year on Sept. 30. To avoid government shutdown, Congress will probably use a continuing resolution in the short-term to authorize further spending at existing levels.
Although both Republicans and Democrats agree spending cuts should be adjusted from the current across the board sequestration cuts, so far they have not been able to agree on how to best target spending cuts.
Democrats want spending on education, technology, and infrastructure to increase or to at least remain at current levels. Republicans want to reduce spending overall with minimal cuts to military spending. Some Republicans have threatened they will not approve any budget with funding for the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare,” the health-care reforms that are scheduled to go into effect in 2014.
The Treasury’s need to borrow more money to cover expenses and service the debt will complicate the budget debate. Last week the Treasury said it would run out of money to pay expenses and service the debt sometime in October; therefore, the borrowing limit of $16.7 trillion will need to be lifted higher.
Last week John Boehner, speaker of the House, said any increase of the debt ceiling would come only with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Cuts to so-called entitlement spending are not likely to come easily, if at all. Obama has already said the terms of the debt-limit increase are not negotiable—Congress must pay for the spending it authorized.
Nevertheless Republicans are not expected to reach any agreement early but rather wait until the last minute, even if just to keep attention on mounting government debt.