Senate defense hawks are saying that they will not vote for the GOP budget if it doesn't include a reserve fund for the Pentagon and other federal agencies.
The proposed "deficit-neutral reserve fund" would protect the Defense Department as well as other budget items from sequestration, The Hill is reporting
"I need a commitment from the leadership that we're going to have an ability to fix sequestration," South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said this week. "This is a defining moment for the Republican Party."
New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is joining Graham in asking Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi of Wyoming to include the reserve fund in the budget resolution being drafted by Senate Republicans. Both Graham and Ayotte are budget committee members.
The senators say the fund would give Republicans negotiating leverage over budget limits later this year. They say it would allow for flexibility to increase spending limits in categories that are top priorities for lawmakers.
The sequestration was enacted in 2011 as part of an agreement to allow for the debt ceiling to be raised by imposing defense and non-defense spending limits.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said he wants to see the spending limits changed and said the proposed fund is a gimmick.
"We'll have to increase defense spending in the budget itself," McCain said. "We're looking at various options."
Defense Secretary Ash Carter
told the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee that the cuts are affecting the department significantly.
"We would have to change the shape and not just the size of our military, significantly affecting parts of our defense strategy. We cannot meet sequester with further half-measures," Carter said.
"If we're stuck with sequestration's budget cuts over the long term, our entire nation will have to live with the answers," he added.
Graham says that he and other Republicans are willing to consider a deal that would increase spending limits for domestic programs if it also includes a budget increase for the Defense Department, which would likely get support from the Obama administration as well.
However, it would be difficult to get conservatives on board, Stan Collender of the Qorvis MSLGROUP told The Hill.
Enzi has implied that he intends to keep the spending caps where they are, especially because they are part of The Budget Control Act, which would be difficult to change since it is the current law.
"You need 60 votes to change a law that set the caps in place," Ayotte said. "We're going to need support from Democrats to do that."
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