HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) - All eyes are now on the White House and Congress with massive defense cuts set to take effect in just a matter of weeks, dealing a potentially devastating blow to north Alabama.
North Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) will return to Washington on Monday with the rest of Congress, facing a January 2nd deadline to avoid half a trillion dollars worth of automatic military spending cuts. President Obama and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives can avoid the massive cutback if they're able to agree on an alternative debt-reduction plan before then, but the two sides remain gridlocked over where to find the funds.
The president has called for tax hikes, while GOP congressional leaders are advocating for spending cuts in other areas of the federal budget. One recent study suggests that Alabama could lose up to 40,000 jobs under the so-called sequestration plan, with the bulk of those cuts taking place at Redstone Arsenal and its surrounding contractors. Congressman Brooks declined to say if he would vote for a tax hike if it came down to saving defense dollars.
"I'm willing to consider whatever proposal the president offers," said Brooks. "At this point, I'm unwilling to committ that I will vote for taxes or not vote for taxes without knowing what those taxes may be, without knowing the impact of those taxes on our national defense budget...When I go back to Washington tomorrow, I hope that the president will clear up this uncertainty."
Brooks dismissed recent suggestions that President Obama's reelection was tantamount to voters supporting his tax hike plan to increase revenue and a rejection of proposals to cut non-military spending in other parts of the budget.
"Nobody in the House of Representatives on the Republican side believes that the president has a mandate," said Brooks. "When you get 50.5 percent, that just doesn't cut it...I think we need to be cutting the welfare programs and giveaway programs that the President and Democrats seem so intent on expanding in the face of deficits that are so great they threaten our nation with insolvency and bankruptcy."
Congressman Brooks voted against the bill that set up the automatic defense cut plan. President Obama struck that deal with Congress last year as part of an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
The $500 billion worth of cuts would be implemented over a ten year period if the automatic provision is triggered. Military and defense spending would take roughly fifty percent of all spending cuts in the federal budget, even though that category accounts for just fifteen percent of total federal spending.