Democrat Harry Reid commemorated the seven Marines killed in an explosion at Hawthorne Army Depot in his home state today, and called for an end to sequestration budget cuts at the Department of Defense.
The Marines were killed and at least seven others injured during a training exercise.
The Senate majority leader began his speech on the floor today expressing his condolences for those who died and their families, but soon turned to the sequester cuts.
“One of the things in sequester is we cut back in training and maintenance. That’s the way sequester was written,” the Nevada senator said. “It’s just not appropriate, Mr. President, that our military can’t train and do the maintenance necessary. These men and women were Marines who were training there in Hawthorne, and with the sequester, it’s going to cut this stuff back.”
“I just hope everyone understands the sacrifices made by our military,” Reid added. “They are significant. Being away from home, away from families, away from their countries.”
Reid said a 2014 budget that Senate Democrats are hoping to pass would allow the military some “flexibility” in its budgeting.
Reid later tweeted a video of his statements on the Senate floor.
My heart goes out to those injured and to Marines who lost their lives in an explosion near Hawthorne Army Depot bit.ly/149HU2B
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) March 19, 2013
Reid did not indicate how exactly sequestration cuts could have been involved with the accident.
The Department of Defense has said on numerous occasions that sequester cuts hurt the military’s readiness and capabilities.
Some Republicans have accused Democrats of inflating the effects of the sequester in order to make them as painful as possible.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused the Obama administration of “touting” negative sequester effects today, some of which he said were “over the top.”
“They’ve threatened thousands of teachers will get a pink slip, federal prosecutors would have to close cases and let criminals go; even programs like Meals on Wheels that provide our seniors with assistance would be cut; millions of seniors would lose this assistance — another claim; thousands of students — I think 70,000 they said — would lose access to Head Start programs. And I think I even saw the DHS secretary threaten long lines and delays at our airports because of TSA cutbacks,” Issa said at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Unfortunately, all of these statements I believe to be exaggerations.”
UPDATE 9:46 p.m.: A Marine spokesman said comments by unidentified Marines critical of Reid’s remarks that appeared in other press accounts did not reflect the Marine Corps’ position. In a statement Col. Chris Hughes, deputy director of U.S. Marine Corps Public Affairs, said, “The comments are unsubstantiated and certainly do not reflect the Marine Corps’ position on this matter.” An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized Hughes’ statement as being a response to Sen. Reid’s comments.