Gillibrand fears 'devastating' military cuts, but at least one Dem wants the super committee to fail
4:05 pm Nov. 9, 2011
As of today, the congressional "super committee" has exactly two weeks to trim $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years. If the panel—divided equally, and gapingly, between Democrats and Republicans—doesn't reach an agreement by the November 23 deadline, and if Congress doesn't pass it by December 23, a variety of programs will be subject to harsh spending cuts, starting in 2013. Half of the cuts would come from the Pentagon's budget.
At least one Democrat thinks that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
"I have a minority view," Representative Jerrold Nadler told me. "I hope that they cannot reach an agreement."
Nadler, an unabashed proponent of federal spending as a form of economic stimulus, said Congress shouldn't be overly concerned with deficits during a depression, and that the cuts being proposed by Republicans would be just as bad as the cuts that kick in automatically in the absence of a super-committee deal.
"To cut the spending the way they're talking about ... to cut food stamps in a time of economic crisis is terrible," he said. "People will die from malnutrition."
Nadler said that, "as a matter of equity," the wealthiest Americans should pay more taxes as part of any deficit deal, but acknowledged that was probably a nonstarter.
"The Republicans will not go along with that, I think, and therefore, we shouldn't have an agreement," he said.
He said cuts to the military were preferable to other cuts.
"I think we should have large military cuts," he said. "Why do we need, how many troops—60, 70,000 troops—still in Germany? Why do we need troops in half the places they're at? We're still worried about Soviet tank armors invading Western Europe? It's ridiculous."
Meanwhile, on a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said the automatic cuts to the military would be "devastating."
Gillibrand, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, had just finished proposing some new federal services for National Guard and Reserve members.
"I’m very concerned that if we do get to sequestration, the cuts that will take place, I think will be devastating," she said. (Sequestration refers to the automatic cuts.) "And to have so much coming out of the military, is really going to hurt the men and women who serve. There’s going to be, I’m sure, efforts to cut some of the best things we have for our men and women when they’re serving, when they come back, I think it will be devastating. So I am hopeful that we protect the most important aspects that we have for support for men and women while they’re serving and when they come home."
Senator Charles Schumer, the number three Democrat in the Senate, said he is not optimistic that the super committee will reach an agreement, and that a proposed legislative move to avoid triggering the defense cuts was unlikely to succeed.
"You can't pick one part, and that won't happen," Schumer told me on Monday morning, a short while after he said on "Morning Joe" that the committee would probably fail.
Schumer said "certain defense programs" are "very important," but not necessarily more important than other areas that might be cut. "I think education is every bit as important as defense," he said.
Nadler hoped the concern about military cuts might lead his colleagues to reconsider the other cuts, too.
"Insofar as the sequestrations would force looking at large military cuts, good," Nadler said. "And insofar as Republicans might say, 'let's not do the military cuts,' fine, let's not do the other cuts either."