INDIANAPOLIS — Mitt Romney, speaking at the American Legion’s national convention, vowed Wednesday to get veterans out of the unemployment lines and promised to reverse any defense cuts triggered by the ongoing spending standoff on Capitol Hill.
The appeal to veterans, coming just a day before the former Massachusetts governor accepts the Republican nomination for president, is part of the GOP’s effort to blame Mr. Obama for the nation’s slow economic recovery and the proposed trillion-dollar sequestration cut in defense spending.
Republicans are hoping to take some of the luster off the foreign policy record of Mr. Obama, who has enjoyed some successes with his decision to authorize the mission to kill Osama bin Laden and his promise to end the war in Iraq.
“A year ago, President Obama told your convention, ‘We cannot, we must not and we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.’ I thought I finally agreed with him on something, but now he is on the verge of breaking that promise. The Obama administration is set to cut defense spending by nearly $1 trillion, my administration will not.”
The defense budget is caught in the middle of the spending standoff in Washington — thanks to the last-minute Budget Control Act that Democrats and Republicans passed in 2011 to avert federal default.
The plan called for $487 billion in cuts to projected defense spending over the next decade and set into motion another round of about $500 billion in cuts beginning in 2013 if members of Congress can’t hash out a deal to reduce the deficit.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, supported the law. Mr. Romney, though, did not, and has vowed on the stump to beef up defense spending and spend at least 4 percent of gross domestic product on the military. Mr. Romney said Wednesday that the cuts could result in the loss of as many as 1.5 million jobs.
The Obama camp countered that the automatic defense cuts could be avoided if Republicans would drop their opposition to raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
“If Mitt Romney were truly serious about helping veterans, he’d tell Congressman Ryan and his Republican allies in Congress to work with the president to achieve a balanced deficit reduction plan,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
Mr. Romney opened his 16-minute address at the American Legion’s 94th annual event with a swipe at Mr. Obama’s decision to address the conference via video, rather than in person, this week.
“You may wonder why I am not down [at the Republican National Convention] right now polishing the final draft of my speech. My answer is this: When our nation has called, you answered, and I consider any opportunity to address our nation’s veterans a privilege not to be missed,” Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Romney accused the president of trying to increase the fees on the military members covered under Tricare, the health care program for veterans, and said he failed to deliver on the No. 1 concern of young veterans: jobs.
“They need and deserve good jobs,” he said. “The president’s greatest failure is that he has not delivered those jobs. As president, I will get America to work again,” he said.
He said he would modify the post-9/11 GI bill so that any veteran wishing to continue his or her education is eligible for in-state tuition regardless of residency.
In his taped address this week, Mr. Obama applauded the men and women of the armed services for their roles in bringing an end to the war in Iraq and putting the nation on track to transition out of Afghanistan.