Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) spoke on the Senate floor Monday afternoon to call out Democrats and the lack of action on his amendment to repeal sequester spending cuts on defense and non-defense spending.
"Whenever a Democratic senator says they're worried about the state of our military – that they're horrified at the kinds of cuts we're making, that they can't sleep at night because of what we're doing to our troops in the field – don't believe them," Cotton said.
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Cotton said he is "no fan of frivolous, pork-barrel spending," and that Congress should work to rein in such spending. He argued, however, the blanket cuts imposed by the sequester are not helping Americans. He said the necessity of a repeal requires lawmakers to forge a bipartisan compromise.
"I understand that the only way we were going to get something done about the radical spending cuts to our military was to forge a bipartisan compromise," he said.
Cotton first laid out his case on why the sequester did not radically reduce spending. He explained that from 2011 to 2013, the budget did drop by one billion dollars each year, from $3.6 to $3.4 trillion. Cotton said the drop was a result of a Republican led House, but in 2013, Congress voted to raise budget caps and push off the sequester.
"Spending went down because Republicans won control of the House in 2010. At the end of 2013, however, Congress raised the budget caps and pushed off the sequester for those two years ahead," Cotton said. "So by 2015, federal spending was back to $3.6 trillion, and it's been growing ever since. Time and time again, Congress has proven itself utterly incapable of sticking to the caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011."
The senator argued that, despite the "crisis," Democrats are throwing away an opportunity to act.
"My amendment was the last, best chance in years to stop this bust-and-boom cycle of budgeting. But what did the Democrats do? They threw it away. They took a perfectly good, bipartisan opportunity to repeal these automatic spending cuts, and they threw it away," he said.
Cotton, a former U.S. Army officer, then honed in on the sequester's impact on the U.S. military. He quoted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis from an Armed Services Committee hearing in June.
"No enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration," Mattis said. "I have been shocked by what I've seen about our readiness to fight."
The Arkansas senator bluntly called out Democratic senators from Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and his "favorite," the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed (R.I.). He said the senators have all called to repeal the sequester, but when push comes to shove, they have stayed silent.
During his 12-minute floor speech, he said the Democrat senators could at least admit their cowardliness. He called on senators from a number of states – if they're not going to support the sequester repeal – to "look all these Americans in the eye and say, ‘Sorry. It's just politics. Hope you understand.'"
He argued that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) does not want Democrats to support the amendment because he "wants more leverage for more pork-barrel spending when we have a budget deal, negotiated in secret, in December."
"They're putting politics ahead of our troops. They're holding our troops hostage to politics, solely because their leader wants them to," Cotton said.
Cotton finished by saying the Democratic senators are hiding "to save their own skin."
"So, they just hide behind procedure. They hide in their cloak room. They hide from the voters. They hide in the back corridors and hallways of this building. They hide to save their own skin," Cotton said. "They hide because they're ashamed. And they sure as hell should be ashamed."
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