Rubio: ‘We’re Not the Netherlands’ -- America’s Defense Has Global Implications

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 29, 2012 | 3:31 PM EDT

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. ( Starr)

( – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chiding his fellow senators for playing “a game of chicken” with automatic cuts to the defense budget as a result of last year’s failed super committee deficit negotiations, said Thursday that unlike smaller countries, the United States has an important role in promoting the security of the world.

“Our national defense has implications not just for Americans, but for the world,” Rubio said. “We’re not the Netherlands. We’re not Switzerland, we’re not some small country around the planet.  We have significant global obligations that have implications for people beyond our borders.”

Rubio, standing with his fellow Republican senators Thursday at a Capitol Hill news conference, called for urgent action to stop sequestration -- or the automatic across-the-board budget cuts -- that will go into effect next year.

“The good news is I can’t find anybody around here who thinks this is actually a good idea,” Rubio said.  “Everybody agrees that this would be catastrophic,” he said, of the deal that will take $1.2 trillion over 10 years equally from defense and discretionary spending budgets.

“The bad news is we can’t find enough people around here that want to do anything about it right away,” he added.  “This is not something to play with.  You don’t play a game of chicken with our national defense especially when it comes to the United States.”

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The Florida senator said the U.S. military “has made the world a better and safer place,” and has acted as a deterrent to unfriendly regimes in the past.

“If we undermine that, if we weaken that, we are encouraging bad actors all across the planet to think about doing things they wouldn’t otherwise think about doing,” he said.

As part of the Budget Control Act last August, Congress established a Super Committee  -- a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers from both the House and Senate -- to come up with a minimum of $1.2 trillion in spending reductions. Upon the committee’s failure, the cuts will be taken out of defense and domestic budgets equally, resulting in an additional $500 billion slash to the Pentagon budget.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also appeared at the press conference to advance their plan to avoid sequestration.

“The Down Payment to Protect National Security Act” would offset the first year of scheduled Pentagon cuts with an extension of President Barack Obama’s pay freeze for federal workers through 2014 and a reduction of the overall federal workforce by 5 percent over 10 years.

McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’s willing to negotiate the plan with Democrats and the pesident in order to spare cuts to Defense.

“These are proposals that we have and we’re not etched in concrete,” McCain said.  “But we want to sit down with the administration and our friends on the Democrat side who share our alarm and work this out.”

“And it needs to be done sooner rather than later,” he added.

The Republicans advised against waiting until the lame duck session of Congress since the Pentagon will soon begin its budget plans for 2013, and make plans for military reductions.

Ayotte referenced a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing held this morning, where Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall said the automatic cuts are “so crazy that nobody would ever do it.”

“Well, we do some things around here that always aren’t so smart at times, though I don’t think we should add ‘crazy’ on top of it when it comes to our national defense,” Ayotte said.

“So if it’s so crazy that nobody would do it why aren’t we coming together now?” she said.  “We have a bill to stop the impact of the sequestration in the first year and I call on my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us to work this out so that we can’t let something crazy happen to the national defense of this country.”