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Forget Democrats, Republicans Battle Each Other Over Defense Spending

Leaders in Congress are trying to figure out how to please Republicans demanding an end to defense cuts without reneging on their promise to balance the budget and bring greater fiscal responsibility to Washington.

Defense hawks, such as Republican Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services committees respectively, are threatening to derail any budget that does not lift strict caps on defense spending. But they face an uphill battle against fiscal hawks who are determined to balance the budget and reduce the size of government.

The spending caps were imposed after Congress failed to reach a budget deal in 2011, and if not met result in across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. “[The caps] are one of the best things that’s happened to the finances of the country,” Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions told The New York Times.

Critics of the cuts say it’s unfair and unacceptable to force the military to make such drastic cuts. “Bottom line for me: I need to see an endgame where the Department of Defense does not get destroyed before I vote for a final budget,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico(RELATED: Left And Right Unite To Blast Sequester-Imposed Defense Cuts)

McCain called for $577 billion in defense spending in 2016, reported The New York Times. That’s $54 billion above the 2016 cap and $16 billion more than President Barack Obama called for in his budget.

“This is a war within the Republican Party,” Graham told The New York Times. “You can shade it any way you want, but this is war.”

A bipartisan group of five senators, including Graham, Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, has been working behind the scenes to come up with a solution, reported Politico. One possibility is a “deficit-neutral reserve fund,” which would be set up separately from the budget and allow increased defense spending by making cuts to other programs, and potentially from closing tax loopholes.

Republicans would have to pass a budget that sticks to the caps, and then negotiate the spending agreement later this year.

McCain dismissed that plan. “Don’t talk about national security,” he told The New York Times. “Don’t complain about the president of the United States if we are going to stick to the sequestration numbers.”

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