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New GOP budget will be a national security disaster and political nightmare

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This week on my radio show Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said of the looming deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that, “I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938.”

Many agree with Cruz. Many scoff. But among those who agree in the Congress there is coming a moment of testing of their sincerity.

Conservatives tend to forget that Neville Chamberlain was a conservative, and that he and his predecessor as Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, also a Tory, had presided over what what turned out to be a near fatal hollowing out of Great Britain’s military in the ’30s. Congressional conservatives and Republicans generally love to quote Churchill, but they ought to do more than quote him, they ought to read his speeches from the ’30s in which he lambasted the Front Bench in Parliament for neglecting all branches of the military.

Next week the GOP will introduce its first budget since taking control of the Senate as well as the House. Early indications are that it will bitterly disappoint the voters that rallied this past fall to send serious, national security-credentialed people to the Hill such as new Sens. Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan. Almost every Republican ran on rebuilding a Pentagon ravaged by “sequestration.” No one campaigned on “keeping the cap” on the Department of Defense.

Other interviews I conducted this past week — with Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry and South Dakota Sen. John Thune — left me with the distinct impression that the GOP budget about to be unveiled will either “keep the cap” or at best pull some budget tricks to slightly supplement DoD’s budget.

This would be a national security disaster and a political nightmare. The just completed Department of Homeland Security funding fiasco was mostly ameliorated by the intervention of the Federal district court injunction halting the president’s wildly unconstitutional approach to immigration unilateralism, and the Fifth Circuit kept that injunction in place so the shock among the grassroots was muted.

But to double cross the base on defense spending would be an order of magnitude greater breach of faith. The GOP ran on rebuilding the nation’s defenses. That was the deal. We need more ships, aircraft, soldiers, sailors and Marines. The F-35 isn’t on schedule so we need more F-18 Super Hornets. The 11 carrier groups have to become a reality again, not just a number mandated in the law. Etc., etc., etc.

Chairman Thornberry put the minimum need for 2016 at $577 billion and many think that number is low. But it is substantially over the cap called for by sequestration. A GOP congress simply has to break sequestration with regards to Defense and keep it in place everywhere else. That is the expectation of the party’s supporters. More importantly, that is the need of the nation. The country needs more, in fact, but that is a start.

If the GOP’s budget breaks faith with the military, expect serious, sustained criticism. They can conduct budget battles with the president all summer and fall, but the GOP Congress should get him a serious defense appropriations bill soon after a serious budget passes.

The GOP on the Hill may have talked themselves into thinking they can tell the public their hands are tied by the sequestration deal but that is absurd. They are a majority of both chambers and only a majority is needed to pass a budget. If the GOP fails to stand up for defense, they can expect blistering criticism and those running in 2016 can hardly expect voters to trust any promise they make about national security, or take seriously any condemnations of an Iran deal negotiated by a president they cannot themselves charge with weakness on national security when their role in national security is to hollow out the military with on-the-cheap Pentagon funding.

 

This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.

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