Ben Cardin: Deficit Reduction Must Include Defense Cuts, Tone in Washington Should Change

By Eliza

Jul 1, 2011 2:25pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf (@zbyronwolf) reports:

The wrangling will go on in Washington over what programs to cut and which tax incentives to erase ahead of the Treasury Department’s August 2nd deadline to extend the federal debt limit beyond its current $14.3 trillion.

But Sen. Ben Cardin told ABC ‘s Top Line political program today said one thing is for sure – Pentagon and defense funding needs to be included.

“We're going to have to reduce spending. But it's not  just going to be our domestic spending,” Cardin said from Baltimore, when asked to justify to voters why more than $1 trillion in government spending is necessary. “We're going to reduce our military spending. Many of us think that both the redeployment of our troops in Afghanistan, we can bring down the military budget, and by the way, we also need the revenues in order to pay our bills.”

He would not say how much of the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts should come from defense spending, but he did give a ballpark.

Go behind the scenes in the debt negotiations.

“We think the Pentagon can make a substantial contribution. I'm not going to give you a specific number, but we believe there's hundreds of billions of dollars of savings that can be obtained from the Department of Defense and redeploying our troops from Afghanistan. National Security is more than the Department of Defense. We believe that by a better allocation to diplomacy and the civilian side, you can save money on the military side and have a stronger national defense. “

No matter what is cut, Cardin said it has to appear fair and affect the whole budget, not just social programs.

“What I think the people of Maryland are looking to, and I think the people of this country, they want a fair approach that all parts of the budget are in discussion – that no one's treated differently. They certainly don't want to see what the Republicans have done and that is cut programs for our students or cut programs for our seniors and then tell the well-off that they're not going to be part of the solution.”

Cardin said he thinks lawmakers can reach an agreement as soon as next week on how to raise the debt ceiling and that is why senate Democrats cancelled a planned week of “district work period.”

“Yes, we think that we can reach agreements next week; we hope that we can reach agreements next week. I think that's what our nation needs. That's what the markets are looking for. So we hope that we can advance the process,” Cardin said, with a subtle nudge at House Republicans for being out of session this past week.

“We lost some of the momentum that had been created,” he said. “We know that there's still serious differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. Let's get to work and get the job done.”

But how that job gets done is not clear, especially given the heightened partisan rhetoric in Washington this week. Beyond the very real policy differences between the sides – Republicans have said any tax hikes are off the table as a way to reduce the spiraling U.S. government deficit while Democrats have insisted on them – the language has gotten feisty and mean.

President Obama compared lawmakers to his two daughters doing their homework, and suggested the daughters have a better work ethic. Republican senators shot back with a video showing President Obama golfing in the D.C. area and drinking beer during a trip to Europe last month.

One Republican senator suggested he should “take a valium.” Another compared the president to a third world strong man.

Cardin said the two sides have to work together.

“We need to put it all together. I think that's – if Democrats and Republicans can come together, it'll be in the best interest of the American people. So yes, we need to have a more civil discussion in Washington.”

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