WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, injected a dose of politics into what otherwise was a day of somber reflection as lawmakers recognized the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks.
Griffin blamed President Obama for jeopardizing national security because he has “done nothing” to avoid looming defense cuts called for under so-called sequestration.
“This is still a dangerous world and we still must have the premier military in the world. The sequestration will devastate our military over the long haul and will have significant impacts in the short haul,” Griffin said. “Like so many other big issues facing this country, the House has acted. The President has done nothing.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011, which Griffin supported, raised the debt ceiling in exchange for more than $2 trillion in federal budget cuts over the next decade.
Congress enacted $917 billion of the cuts, leaving $1.2 trillion for a so-called “super committee” to handle. Failing that, the law triggered across-the-board cuts — known as sequester — that would go into effect on Jan. 2.
A little more than half of the “sequester” would fall on the Pentagon.
Griffin, a freshman, joined House Republican leaders at a weekly press conference in the Capitol complex. Speaking last, he echoed partisan complaints leveled by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Boehner and Cantor also complained that the House had approved legislation to offset the across-the-board defense cuts required under the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Griffin issued a press release last year after voting in favor of the Budget Control Act saying it was not perfect but “is good and is consistent with my principles” of spending cuts and no tax increases. He also noted that the so-called “sequester” included in the bill would trigger spending cuts only.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday was asked about the “sequester” said Monday that Republicans were engaged in revisionist history.
President Obama has advocated for spending reductions and revenue increases as a “balanced” approach to reducing the deficit, Carney said. Republicans won’t accept any tax increase.
“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan adamantly refuse to ask oil and gas companies, billionaires, millionaires to contribute a dime to the cause of getting our fiscal house in order,” Carney said.
Congress is not expected to tackle the “sequester” issue until after the November elections.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in an interview broadcast Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” blasted Congress for failing to come up with a deal to prevent cuts that would “hollow out our force.”
“They put a gun to their head — that’s what a sequester was all about. They said, ‘let’s put a gun to our head, and if we don’t do the right thing we’ll blow our heads off.’
“Well, now they’ve cocked the gun — this thing is supposed to take effect in January — but the whole purpose of it was for Republicans and Democrats to do the right thing and to prevent this from happening,” Panetta said. “That’s what’s irresponsible.”
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that he voted for sequester but no one supported gutting the military.
“The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We’ve done that. The president hasn’t,” Ryan said.
The House, controlled by Republicans, approved a bill that would have shifted the defense cuts onto other programs including reductions in federal worker benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, Social Security block grants and health care reforms. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, refused to consider it.
In an interview last month with the Virginian-Pilot, Obama called on both parties to compromise to head off military cuts and blamed Republicans for refusing to budge on tax hikes.
“The only thing that’s standing in the way of us solving this problem right now is the unwillingness of some members of Congress to ask people like me — people who’ve done very well, millionaires, billionaires — to pay a little bit more, in part, to preserve the freedoms that we hold dear. There’s no reason we can’t get a deficit-reduction package that takes sequestration completely off the table,” Obama told the newspaper.
Congressional leaders held a ceremony Tuesday on the steps of the Capitol to mark the Sept. 11th attacks. Lawmakers also delivered remarks on the Senate and House floors in remembrance.
“Batesville native Sara Elizabeth Low was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the plan that hit the north tower of the World Trade Center 11 years ago today,” said Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro. “The community of Batesville, Arkansas may be small in population, but today they are enormous in heart and in remembrance of the life Sara Low lived.”