Defense cuts long have been a Rubicon many top Republicans have refused to cross. But with just 22 days left before the president must sign legislation to avert alleged fiscal doom, that quickly is changing.
An ever-growing chorus of GOP lawmakers and power brokers are crossing over from the ranks of the anti-defense cuts choir. The latest is former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, an influential Republican sometimes mentioned as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
During a Tuesday morning television interview, Barbour said he would “hold my nose” and vote for things that long have been opposed by Republicans: tax rate hikes and defense cuts.
“As a Republican, I would take raising the rates on the two top brackets, if in return we had tax reform laid out over a period of months, if we had entitlement reform, if we…look, we gotta control defense spending. we’ve got to control the other discretionary non-defense spending. if we had the whole package, i would hold my nose…to get the other done.”
That came just hours after a bipartisan group of 22 House Republicans and Democrats, including Armed Services Committee member Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Appropriations Defense subcommittee member James Moran of Virginia, wrote President Obama urging him to put defense cuts on the table to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Notably, GOP leaders in recent weeks have ceased public demands that the Pentagon’s budget be spared additional cuts. The tide could be turning as the fiscal cliff clocks ticks.