While the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the country getting involved in the Syrian civil war, and are puzzled as to why the administration is considering such an action, some have suggested the president could use a war with Syria as possible leverage to extract tax increases and increased government spending from Congress in the upcoming budget negotiations.
The issue involves a series of drastic cuts in defense spending as a result of the sequester that took effect after Congress failed to reach agreement on a budget earlier this year. The cuts have been so drastic to the military that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Panel, issued a press release saying the U.S. cannot afford to go to war in Syria given the ongoing effects of defense sequestration.
“I cannot support military action in Syria unless the president presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it,” Inhofe said. “[Obama] has underfunded overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund, reduced base defense budget, and put into motion sequestration. Our military has no money left.”
Steve Bell, a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said if the president goes forward with his plans to engage Syrian in some type of military response, it could give them an edge in the upcoming budget negotiations in their attempt to roll back the sequester cuts, which is the long-term goal of the administration.
“I think it has the possibility of advancing fiscal talks, I really do,” he said. “Under those circumstances, I can see a [2014 continuing resolution] that would contain full funding for defense,” he said.
In March, the defense budget was cut by proximally $37 billion and the Pentagon is facing an additional $52 billion in cuts during the next fiscal year that begins next month.
In an attempt to increase government spending and higher taxes, the White House has been counting on defense hawks breaking ranks with tea party conservatives to approve spending increases because the cuts to defense are exacting such a high toll on military readiness.
The administration suffered a serious setback this week when secretive talks between the White House and Congress were suspended indefinitely over the issue of new taxes. The president has long insisted that any budget deal must increase taxes, despite his already having gotten a tax increase passed by Congress earlier this year.
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