Sen. John McCain is accusing President Barack Obama of being “AWOL” in the debate over looming defense cuts and the possibility of layoff notices going out to government contractors before the November election.
“The effects will be devastating,” the Arizona Republican said of the first $109 billion in automatic cuts, known as sequestration, due to take place in January.
McCain told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday he and other lawmakers are trying to figure out a way now to “eliminate the sequestration” that was created by Congress last year when its deficit-reduction supercommittee failed to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
“Guess who is AWOL? Missing in action,” he said. “That’s the president of the United States who has decided that it’s not his problem.
“It is his problem as commander in chief to take care of our nation's security,” McCain said. “It is his first and foremost obligation. And he has taken a hike.”
The comments came a day after the Labor Department sent out a memo cautioning contractors against giving layoff notices, which McCain and other Republicans insist are required under the Warren Act to allow employees at least two months to find other jobs before actually being laid off.
A department spokesman said the notices were unnecessary since Congress still has five months to work out an agreement that could avoid defense cuts.
McCain called the department’s memo an example of the “incredible politicization of everything that this administration does,” suggesting that the president was trying to head off the layoff notices ahead of the November election.
The Warren Act, he insisted, “requires it.”
“I mean, there is no gray area that requires that layoff notices be extended 60 days before the layoffs,” he said. “That was so people could be prepared for losing their jobs. So, they now — the Department of Labor, after some time ago saying they had no jurisdiction — are now saying that that doesn’t have to be done.”
McCain said the administration is also using Congress’ failure to avert automatic cuts in the first place as an excuse now not to engage in efforts among congressional Democrats and Republicans to reach a budget compromise before year’s end.
“His secretary of Defense and the uniformed chiefs have testified consistently that [the automatic cuts] will devastate our National Security. It will inhibit our ability to preserve this nation’s security,” he said. “Now, what greater obligation does a president of the United States have? And he is saying, ‘Well, Congress created this so they can, quote, wiggle out of it.’
“This is a president who does not understand America’s role in the world and requirement for a strong military,” he added.
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