The Republican nominee for Arizona's open U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Jeff Flake, is being criticized in a new web ad for suggesting that Medicare be cut instead of defense.

Flake, who is seeking the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, told a group in Tucson last week that he believed Congress should make more cuts to "entitlement programs" -- in particular, Medicare -- as part of the sequestration process mandated by last year's failure to reach a federal budget-slashing deal, according to a report in the Arizona Daily Star. Congress is currently looking at the sequestration-ordered cuts to defense spending.

The Arizona Daily Star reports:

Speaking this past week in Tucson about the impacts automatic spending cuts, or sequestration, would have on the U.S. military and defense industry, Flake said he and other members of the U.S. House have proposed finding savings elsewhere to avoid the cuts. Unless Congress acts, the [total sequestration] cuts would total $1.2 trillion over a seven-year period starting in 2013, including about $500 billion in defense cuts. They would begin in January.

"In the House we are saying, 'Let's take the cuts from the real drivers of our debt, which is not defense.' The real drivers of our debt are the entitlement programs, in particular Medicare," Flake said. "With the reforms that we've already called for in the so-called Ryan budget, we've said let's realize those savings over time in entitlement programs rather than defense spending."

Flake is an ally of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and has backed Rep. Ryan's budget proposal to overhaul the Medicare program. Ryan has endorsed Flake in his Senate campaign. Democrats have criticized Flake for his connection to Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee.

On Monday afternoon, Flake's Democratic opponent, Richard Carmona, released a web ad criticizing Flake's remarks and describing Medicare not as an entitlement program but as an investment.

In a statement, Carmona, a former surgeon general in the George W. Bush administration, linked Medicare and Social Security together as investments and as promises by the federal government to seniors. He also proposed that Congress look for cuts by promoting greater government efficiency and changing the focus of the military.

"I firmly oppose the across the board cuts that would come from the sequester, which are the result of Congress's failure to work together. But the answer to our deficit problem isn't slashing benefits for our seniors or veterans, as Congressman Flake would do," Carmona said. "The answer is eliminating redundant programs, reorienting our military away from Cold War threats and fixing our health care system's broken business plan."

Flake's campaign spokesman, Andrew Wilder, could not be reached for immediate comment.

Medicare arguments have been made by other Arizona Democrats as well. Before a June special election to win a Tucson-area congressional seat, Democratic Rep. Ron Barber hammered his Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, over comments Kelly had made in a 2010 congressional race about cutting Medicare.

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. --

Flake's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, described Carmona's video as the Democrat going along with the strategy of national Democrats in criticizing Flake on the Medicare issue.

"Taking predictable orders from his national Democrat bosses, Richard 'Rubberstamp' Carmona is Mediscaring Arizona seniors about Jeff Flake with tired attacks." Wilder said in an email. "The fact is that Carmona said he supports Obamacare and called the president 'brave' for pushing it, even though it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the massive new health care entitlement."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • 1912

    Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • 1935

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1942

    Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1945

    President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1960

    John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1965

    President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1974

    President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1976

    President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 1986

    President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1988

    Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1993

    President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1997

    Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2003

    President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2008

    Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2009

    President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • 2010

    With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • 2012

    On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)