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McCain, Ayotte: Obama 'MIA' on defense cuts debate

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Sens. John McCain and Kelly Ayotte blasted President Obama Monday for purportedly failing to lead on preventing cuts to defense spending set to take effect early next year absent Congressional action.

“I think there needs to be a wake-up call to Congress on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on “Fox and Friends.” “Members of Congress have to get into action, and where’s our president, our commander in chief on this important issue? He really has been absent, and we’re calling on his leadership.”

The two senators, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, are barnstorming Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire over the next two days to talk about $500 billion in defense cuts that are to take effect early next year.

Congress recently passed the Sequester Transparency Act, which requires Mr. Obama to lay out specific cuts to defense and domestic programs that will come out of a total of $1.2 trillion. The cuts resulted from a Congressional supercommittee’s failure to agree on a package of additional cuts last year after Congress voted to slash nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years as part of a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Without action from Congress, the additional cuts will take effect early next year.

Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said they are in conversations with a number of other senators, including Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, who chairs the committee.

“But again, this is also what requires presidential leadership,” Mr. McCain said. “No matter who or what was responsible, the President of the United States is commander in chief; he’s the only one. And if these impacts have the devastating effects that [Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta] and all of our uniformed military leaders say, he should be in there. He should be talking with us; he should be meeting. And he’s MIA.”

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