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Blunt joins budget battle in weekly Republican address

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Senator Blunt | Flickr
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who’s up for re-election next year, is getting some national exposure by delivering this week’s Republican Address.  The platform gives Blunt a chance to be seen going head to head with President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats on federal spending priorities as lawmakers craft a budget.

Senate Democrats and the White House are critical of the Republican budget plan to use funds from what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations – originally designated to fight the Global War on Terror. Using the funds would enable the budget to avoid hitting federal spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. That process is better known as sequestration. 

Democrats criticize the move as a budget gimmick and say lawmakers should first negotiate an end to sequestration before moving forward on the Republican budget.  The president has said he will veto any budget that “locks in sequestration.”

In his remarks, Blunt paints Obama and the Democrats as caring more for federal bureaucrats than for national defense. Blunt specifically identifies two federal agencies Republicans love to bash, the IRS and EPA -- a base-motivating issue for conservatives. “And the president threatened to veto the defense bill unless Congress provides more funding for all sorts of other agencies, like the IRS and EPA.”

Blunt uses his position on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to bolster his argument.  “I understand the importance of eliminating wasteful spending, reducing bureaucracy, streamlining critical military functions, and supporting those who serve – including military families.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, Vice Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, issued a statement earlier in the week criticizing Senate Republicans for blocking an amendment to the appropriations bill that would have removed the Republican use of funds from Overseas Contingency Operations to avoid hitting sequestration limits. 

“I offered this amendment to right a wrong that threatens our military planners and families alike and to set this Congress on a course to begin talks to end sequestration for all federal agencies, including the Department of Defense,” Durbin said.  With the rejection of his amendment, Durbin said that he could not support the bill as written. 

Some Republicans have suggested that with the federal government expected to hit its debt ceiling limit later this year and the increased pressure to constrain federal spending with the automatic cuts, lawmakers might be able to negotiate a more comprehensive budget agreement similar to the so-called Murray-Ryan Budget agreement of 2013.  Named for Senator Patty Murray, D-WA, and Representative Paul Ryan, R-WI., – then the chairs of their respective budget committees.

With the automatic cuts imposed by sequestration, federal discretionary spending has been reduced to levels not seen since the Eisenhower Administration. 

In his address, Blunt said the GOP defense bill “identifies $10-billion in excessive and unnecessary spending and reallocates those funds to military capabilities.”  In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House “strongly objects to provisions in the bill that would constrain the ability of the Department of Defense to conduct multi-year defense planning and align military capabilities and force structure with the President’s defense strategy.”