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Politics / Issues

Automatic Defense Cuts Could Cost Florida 41,000 Jobs

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Bobbie O'Brien

If Congress fails to pass a revised budget, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts will take effect January 1st. Three Republican senators held a “town hall” in Tampa Monday to emphasize how that could devastate national security and the military, but they also offered a solution.

The three senators are breaking with the GOP leadership and calling for a compromise before the automatic cuts go into effect.  They want Democrats and President Obama to join them.

Senator John McCain cautioned, without action, the military and communities will lose jobs.

“We’re looking at here in the state of Florida 41,905 projected losses, a impact on the state of some $3.6 billion,” McCain told a crowd of more than 100.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, welcomed the Republicans and their message of compromise.

“This is important. This is personal. This is MacDill Air Force Base. This is those families that we call our neighbors. This is our economy,” Buckhorn said. “This is what we need to pay attention to and we need to resolve before the January date it goes into effect.”

Because Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base is home to Central Command and Special Operations Command, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it’s more vulnerable.

“MacDill Air Force Base as you know it ... will not survive if this becomes a reality,” Graham said.

A member of Florida Veterans for Common Sense, an organization that opposed the Iraq War, challenged the senators during questioning. Gene Jones said it’s time to cut more from the Department of Defense calling it bloated and in need of an audit for accountability.

Graham agreed with him that the Pentagon needs an audit, but said reform and skillful budget cuts are needed instead of the Draconian approach of the automatic cuts.

Another member of the audience pointed out if they’re calling for bipartisan ship, why were there only Republicans on stage. He was told Democrats will be joining their effort soon.

Graham, McCain and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire back an increase in revenue as part of the solution, which goes against their party’s stand. Graham is quick to point out it is not a call for tax increases.

“I’m willing to work with Democrats to go through that tax code and eliminate deductions and exemptions to pay for about a third.” Graham said. “And, I’m also willing to sell government property we should have sold a long time ago. I’m also willing to increase fees.”

In return for breaking with the GOP, Graham said Democrats need to make cuts in entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  

"The common sense is what you do is you bring Republicans and Democrats together. You stop this silly partisan fighting that's going on," said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, who is backing the Republican senators efforts and pledged to work with them.