By Walter Jones –
SAVANNAH, Ga. – One of the authors of automatic spending cuts said Monday that troop reductions are indeed shrinking federal spending, but “it’s the worst way to run the government you can imagine.”
The comments came in one of the cities hosting Georgia’s seven military installations.
“Sequestration is working to reduce spending, but it’s a terrible way to run a business – particularly a terrible way to run the government,” said former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
Chambliss was part of a bipartisan group of senators in 2013 behind spending controls called sequestration that withhold specific funds when Congress fails to enact spending cuts or tax increases sufficient to reduce the federal debt.
The Pentagon announced that sequestration will result in job losses for 40,000 members of the armed forces, including 950 from Fort Stewart in Hinesville near Savannah and 3,400 at Fort Benning.
Chambliss and the other sponsors of the cutting mechanism wanted the threat of uncomfortable reductions to spur politicians to take action to avoid them.
He said Monday the way sequestration has worked illustrates that political action would be better.
“The military is the prime example of that. Here we are reducing the size of the force structure all across the board versus giving our members of the military the opportunity to say where the cuts in spending ought to come,” he said. “That’s why something’s got to be done. … The military will tell you, ‘We can make some savings. We can achieve some spending cuts if you let us decide where it comes from.'”
Addressing 1,500 state legislators from across the South meeting in Savannah, Chambliss recounted his frustration at how politics stood in the way of compromise and problem solving on the federal budget during his two terms in the Senate. At one point, a majority of senators committed to tackle thorny spending decisions, but he told the members of the Southern Legislative Conference that the Republican and Democratic leaders created the roadblock.
Neither wants the political risk of subjecting his party’s senators to tough votes, he said.
The retired senator urged those still in the game to be willing to make difficult decisions in dealing with issues in their own states.
The former ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee also condemned the agreement the Obama administration negotiated with Iran regarding nuclear weapons.
“Based on what I know right now, I think it’s a terrible deal,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “I didn’t understand why, in the first place, we would be negotiating with a country that we consider to be a terrorist-sponsoring country.”
Details of the agreement haven’t been made public, but once they are, Congress will have 60 days to consider whether to reject it.
Chambliss called for other measures to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
“There are other things that we can do, including the (economic) sanctions,” he said.
His successor, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Georgia’s other senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, have both blasted the agreement as well.
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