A key Republican is pushing for a one-year Defense Department exemption from sequestration as part of any resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria.
Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his proposed amendment would avoid the $52 billion or higher budget cut facing the Defense Department in fiscal 2014 if President Obama takes military action.
Inhofe made clear, however, that he would vote against the Syria use-of-force authorization even if his amendment is adopted. “I will still oppose the effort of this president to send activity into Syria. I believe it would precipitate a war,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe’s remarks come as the Senate has delayed a vote on S.J. Res 21, a measure passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would authorize the use of force against Syria for a limited period and prohibits deployment of U.S. troops into Syria.
A procedural vote on the measure had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was indefinitely postponed while the Obama administration attempts to sell Congress and the American public on the need for military strikes on Syria and for consideration of a Russian proposal to avoid a conflict by having Syria give up its chemical weapons stockpiles.
“I am very much opposed to any kind of force in Syria, but if it happens we want to be sure there is some protection there,” Inhofe said.
His push to protect the military budget is a response, he said, to the military being “decimated by drastic budget cuts.”
Specifically, he cited the grounding for three months of 16 Air Force squadrons, cuts in naval and ground forces and federal civilian furloughs.
“We can't have it both ways, continuing to cut the funding of our military while still expecting to meet our national security requirements,” he said. “As military readiness and capabilities decline, we accept greater risk, and, as I have always said, risk equals lives.”
Similar efforts are under way in the House of Representatives, with talk of including a sequester exemption for the Defense Department in any Syria resolution and also including the exemption for the government funding bill lawmakers need to pass by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.