Outgoing House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R., Calif.) issued a warning to Congress on Thursday, criticizing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for implementing deep and wide-ranging budget cuts to the U.S. defense budget that have gutted the military and left many soldiers without a job.
The defense cuts, known as sequestration, have drastically impacted the U.S. military and troops fighting abroad, McKeon said in a final speech on the House floor as he prepares to end his 21-year career in Congress.
As U.S. troops lay their life on the line to protect America, Congress has repaid them by enacting budget cuts that have degraded their capabilities and left many soldiers without a job, McKeon said.
"Right now, they are walking patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan," McKeon said. "They are at sea within missile range of Iran. They are flying wingtip-to-wingtip against Russia bombers over the North Sea. They are nose to nose with the North Koreans. They are sweating in the equatorial heat of Africa, fighting a horrible disease. They are standing on the sand of Iraq, risking everything against a brutal enemy."
"They take those risks, they make those sacrifices, because of you," he said on the House floor. "They do it for you. They do it for us. For their families, for their flag. For our freedom."
"And how we have repaid them? With equipment that is falling apart. By laying them off while they’re off in war zones," McKeon said. "By docking their pay and their medical benefits. By throwing them out of the service and onto a broken economy."
Congress and the White House must put aside their ideological differences in order to finally pass a budget that will end the drastic cuts put in place as a result of the sequester, McKeon said.
"Shame on us, if we’re unwilling to pay back the debt we owe them. Shame on all of us, from the White House down, if we cannot make far less a sacrifice on their behalf," McKeon said to his congressional colleagues.
"My road in Congress is coming to an end. It will be on the next Congress and the president to make these injustices right," he said. "So please, show our troops the respect they deserve. Give them the tools they need. Help keep them safe. Honor their service, with your service."
A compromise on the defense budget must be enacted next year, McKeon said, acknowledging that it will be a tough process politically and practically.
"There isn’t some magical solution that Republicans can support and the president can sign without sacrifice on both sides," he said. "When that solution comes, it will be a tough vote on both sides."
"For some of my colleagues, it might be a fatal vote. I pray that you will hold this thought in your hearts when that vote comes: Remember the great sacrifice our troops are making around the world."