‘There Is No Wiggle Room,’ said Jay Carney on Triggered Cuts To Defense Spending

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed on Monday the idea that the president would change the construction of the cuts triggered by the super committee’s failure to make them more lenient on defense spending.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney On Triggered Cuts To Defense Spending: 'There Is No Wiggle Room'. Photo: John Arundel/Flickr

With last week’s unsurprising failure of the deficit “Supercommittee” came a threat by President Obama to “veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending” triggered by the committee’s failure.

At today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney quashed speculation by Sen. Pat Toomey(R-PA) that the President had left some “wiggle room” to rejigger those triggered cuts away from defense.

“Congress voted to impose this sequester to hold its own feet to the fire, to get it to act,” said Carney. “To suggest that they should undo what they did just a few months ago, to declare to the world as they did when they held this vote on the Budget Control Act -– ‘We are going to hold ourselves responsible’ — and then a few months later say ‘never mind,’ that’s not acceptable.”

Sen. Toomey argued, on ABC’s This Week, that there was enough ambiguity in the President’s statement to allow Congress to shift some of the cuts away from defense.

In a statement to reporters in the briefing room last week, Mr Obama made clear his answer to members of Congress who wanted to defang the triggered cuts.

“My message to them is simple:  No’” Barack Obama said. “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.  There will be no easy off ramps on this one.”

“I think there’s a broad consensus that too much of the cuts are weighted on our defense’s capabilities and it would really cut in deeply in our ability to defend this nation. So, I think it’s important that we change the configuration. I would be surprised if the President would simply veto every effort to make any changes,” Sen. Toomey said on Sunday.

This, too, has been the suspicion of Democrats on the Hill who find it difficult to imagine that the president would stand by deep defense budget cuts during an election year and worry that programs like Medicare will end up being gutted further instead. But on Monday, Carney tried to end that chatter.

“Changing it is undoing it,” he said. “The whole purpose of the design of the sequester was to make it so onerous for everybody that it would never come to pass. To change it so that it is not so onerous only relieves pressure on Congress. And obviously Congress needs an immense amount of pressure to get positive things done.”

“The president made clear that the sequester should remain in place,” he added. “Congress passed a law holding itself responsible and accountable and they should do the right thing to get it do. So there is no wiggle room.”

Whether the President sticks to his veto threat or not, the prospect of deep defense cuts in an election year is obviously not as frightening to Republicans as delivering a compromise that violates their ideological aversion to raising revenues through taxes.

Luckily for them, there’s some built-in wiggle room, even if the President does exercise his veto. A two-thirds majority is required in both Houses of Congress to override a veto.

At today’s White House briefing Mr Carney was also confronted by ABC News’ Jake Tapper.

Citing a Wall Street Journal article about the number of times President Obama has traveled to swing-states, Tapper bluntly asks Carney if Obama is “campaigning on taxpayer dime.”

“President Obama seems to travel to battleground states more so than any other president before him. Am I’m wondering if you could respond to this. It looks like the president is campaigning on the taxpayer dime more than any other president has done,” Tapper said.

“I reject the premise of that,” Carney responded.

Carney said since Obama “expanded the political map” by winning some red states, so many more states are considered “purple” or swing-states now. Carney also said that there is “logistical” decision making when the White House plans to travel. [via Huffington Post, MediaIte and Fox News]

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