Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Republican senators proposed reducing the U.S. workforce by 5 percent over a decade to avert looming cuts from the defense budget.
Six senators said today that they will introduce legislation to shrink the number of federal personnel through attrition and extend a pay freeze for employees for an additional year and a half. The freeze also would apply to members of Congress.
“The mission ought to define the budget; the budget shouldn’t define the mission,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said at a news conference on the measure in Washington. “The most important thing the federal government does is keep the American people safe.”
The Republicans don’t have any Democratic supporters for their approach, underscoring a conflict over whether and how to prevent $500 billion in Pentagon cuts that otherwise will begin next year. Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who leads the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he wouldn’t support any approach that doesn’t involve raising new revenue.
The defense cuts are half of automatic spending reductions mandated after a congressional supercommittee failed to reach agreement in November on alternative ways to reduce the federal deficit. The Pentagon already is planning separately for $490 billion in spending reductions over the decade.
For every three retiring federal employees, the U.S. government would hire only two under the Republican proposal.
Graham, Ayotte, McCain
The plan also would save enough money to avert automatic budget cuts in other areas of discretionary spending next year, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said at the news conference. In addition to Cornyn and Kyl, the measure is sponsored by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and John McCain of Arizona.
The Republicans projected the legislation would create total savings of $127 billion in 2013, of which $109 billion is needed to replace the automatic spending reductions.
The Senate plan is similar to a plan introduced last year by Republican Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. McKeon proposed a federal workforce reduction of 10 percent.
--Editors: Larry Liebert, Katherine Rizzo
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