While drafting a budget blueprint this week, Republican defense hawks will square off against the party's hard-line spending hawks, with both factions determined to see the blueprint reflect their priorities, The New York Times reports
"This is a war within the Republican Party," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-time champion of the military who has promised to fight for increased military spending in a final budget, told the Times. "You can shade it any way you want, but this is war."
"Don't talk about national security," Arizona Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, warned fellow Republicans. "Don't complain about the president of the United States if we are going to stick to the sequestration numbers."
Putting members of the GOP at odds are the 2011 spending caps and across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration – measures that are lauded by fiscal hawks determined to reduce spending and balance the budget – and a desire by military proponents to bolster the armed forces.
The Times reports that both uniformed and civilian leadership have warned that deep cuts in personnel "would leave the smallest Air Force in history, tens of thousands of soldiers taken from the combat-ready units and dramatically scaled-back naval rapid-response forces."
In December 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, struck a compromise that relieved sequestration for two years, according to The Hill
. But the sequestration budget caps are set to return this fall.
Many conservative lawmakers are all in for the spending caps, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.
He characterizes the caps as "one of the best things that's happened to the finances of the country," according to the Times.
But McCain has said he will do "whatever it takes" to lift the defense caps, the Times reported, "including making a deal with Democrats to bolster domestic spending."
Outside groups, like the fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which spent some $125 million to elect conservatives in 2014, are also closely monitoring what transpires, according to the National Journal
The group's president, Tim Phillips, told the Journal that AFP wants to see discretionary spending capped at sequester-level numbers.
Thus far it appears as though the new Republican Congress continues to grow government, he said, and the budget blueprint will give them the chance to show otherwise.
"I think the question is will they really scale back government spending and the size of government?" he said. "Will they really make their rhetoric reality?"
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