How will congressional Republicans reconcile their hawkish, strong defense spending roots with the fiercely fiscally conservative, isolationist Tea Party freshmen?
Cracks have been forming. Last month, Politico reported how sophomore Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) rallied conservative freshmen to beat his own party leadership in a House vote to cut $450 million for a competitive engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Our own Rick Maze, of Military Times, reports that Republicans are at now odds over the controversial “Path to Prosperity” budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Republican House Budget Committee chairman.
Ryan’s budget, which includes a $37 billion decrease from the yet-to-be-approved defense spending request for the current fiscal year. The Obama administration had called for cuts of $78 million over five years.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, is among those who want to spend more, as does the conservative Heritage Foundation, whose own plan calls for a $25 billion to $50 billion increase in the planned 2012 through 2016 budgets.
The Heritage Foundation’s vast smorgasbord of force structure increases, aimed at homeland security and at the Asian and Pacific regions, gives zero to the Air Force, but a veritable fleet of ships and submarines to the Navy and Marines — and missile batteries, a corps headquarters, as well as tanker, Stryker and aviation brigades to the Army.
One thing’s for sure: Defense industry lobbyists have been making their voices heard. As The Hill’s John T. Bennett reports, defense officials and advocates have been targeting Tea Party freshmen.
“The defense industry only has one customer, and that customer is a political system. That means contractors must get along with whoever is in power, regardless of ideology,” the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson told The Hill. “The big question the companies are asking themselves right now is whether the Tea Party really is in power, or will it be smothered by proponents of the status quo on both sides of the aisle?”
[via Politico, Military Times, New York Times, The Hill]