WASHINGTON -- Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) a member of the congressional super committee charged with devising a plan to shrink the national debt, pledged on Sunday to find a way to limit the defense budget cuts that would be triggered by that committee's likely failure.
"I can't imagine that knowing of the importance of national defense that both Republicans and Democrats wouldn't find a way to work through that process so that we still get the $1.2 trillion in cuts but it doesn’t all fall on defense as [Defense] Secretary [Leon] Panetta pointed out," Kyl said on "Meet the Press." "I think there is a way to avoid that if there is good will on both sides. And again I think when the reality sets in even those Democrat friends who would like to see more defense cuts ... will find ways to work around that."
As it stands now, the super committee's failure to reach a deal by Wednesday would result in automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion, half of which would come from defense. But because those cuts won't actually happen until 2013, Congress has the capacity to alter or even prevent them fully.
Kyl, who is retiring from Congress, ruled out simply wiping away the triggers altogether. But his argument that the sequester falls too heavily on defense has picked up steam on the Hill. The president has, recently, said he would not support changing the parameters of the trigger. And when pressed privately, White House aides have always argued that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shares their sentiment. But operatives within the Democratic Party are already waxing skeptically about their own lawmakers keeping those particular cuts in place, predicting that they'll buckle to avoid being branded soft on defense.
Speaking after Kyl on "Meet the Press," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), another supercommittee member, sounded the alarm against that happening.
"Jon just talked about how they are not going to do that sequester," Kerry said. "He just talked about how they are going to get out from under it. There is a real threat that not only will there be a downgrade but that the market on Monday will look again at Washington and say, 'you guys can't get the job done.' And just the political confusion and gridlock is enough to say to the world: 'America can't get its act together.'"
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