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Defense Hawks vs. Anti-Tax Hawks

At the Washington Examiner, Phil Klein sees a potential war brewing between national security hawks and the anti-tax movement. While both groups avoided any immediate concessions in the debt ceiling deal – no defense cuts, no taxes – they may clash during the upcoming committee negotiations if it turns into an intra-conservative debate between defense reductions and tax hikes:

President Obama said during his brief remarks tonight that he would continue to push for a “balanced approach” (i.e. higher taxes). No doubt, Democrats on the congressional committee will be insisting on raising taxes as part of deficit reduction, and Republicans will be torn in both directions. Either they agree to tax increases, or they trigger automatic defense cuts on top of the cuts that they already agreed to.

No doubt, we’ll start to see more and more opposition from conservative defense hawks to slashing the military budget, while the Norquist crowd will continue to push Republicans to accept more defense cuts to avoid any increase in taxes.

There’s no doubt the same people who have objected to robust national defense for years will use this as yet another pretense to handicap the military. But most conservatives would say there’s no acceptable outcome in the choice between national security and economic security. Higher taxes will ravage the already-flailing economy, and Obama’s incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has warned the military can’t endure additional defense cuts.

Citing this choice, the Heritage Foundation came out against the Budget Control Act this morning. The conservative group said it will include the act as a key vote on its congressional scorecard:

If the commission’s recommendations are not enacted, across-the-board spending cuts would be triggered, half of which (nearly $500 billion) would come from national security spending, and apparently none of which would come from the ever-growing, budget-busting entitlement programs. This provides Democrats on the committee a powerful bargaining position. Agree to their tax hikes or gut defense. It is a dangerous choice conservative lawmakers should not have to make. The defense cuts would compromise our nation’s security and the tax hikes would compromise our nation’s economy.

Boehner’s plan passed the House even with opposition from Heritage, so it seems unlikely the group will be able to block this one. Because both Republicans and Democrats had a hand in crafting the BCA, the vote probably won’t be split along party lines, so Heritage’s threats will also have less of an impact.