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Kathy Castor says GOP defense bill that violates the sequester could end up hurting MacDill AFB

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The Republican-led House’s approval of a multibillion-dollar defense policy bill could end up being vetoed by President Obama and ultimately hurt MacDill Air Force Base, contends Tampa Bay area Democrat Kathy Castor.

But she’s not blaming the president, but the John Boehner-led House.

That’s because the $612 billion bill, which will cover new ships, aircraft and pay raises for the military, is being accounted for by violating the so-called “sequester” imposed back in 2011 that puts a cap on domestic and military spending.

“Republican leaders shouldn’t pat themselves on the back for passing a short-term funding bill with only a few hours remaining on the last day of the fiscal year,” said Castor in a statement. “Republicans have shirked their primary responsibility of crafting a budget that works for the American people while a national transportation bill and jobs legislation also continue to languish.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to raise defense spending by $38 billion a year over the caps, which would total $76 billion in additional spending over the two-year span of a deal being contemplated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Castor highlighted the GOP’s use of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) emergency war account to increase defense spending outside of agreed-to limits, better known as the sequester. However, the OCO fund was created for emergency military operations for the War in Afghanistan and cannot fund daily military operations.

“It’s the worst of all worlds. Republicans bust the budget ceiling, increase the deficit and fail to fund the military’s basic needs,” Castor says.

The congresswoman recently wrote a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations warning them that it will be difficult for officials at CENTCOM to cement the strategic military collaborations in the Middle East if America cannot commit the resources and demonstrate follow-though on its plans.”

Democrats such as Castor would like a budget plan that raises the budget caps imposed since 2011, including a multiyear extension of the Highway Trust Fund, a raising of the debt ceiling and reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank.

That puts pressure on McConnell, since those are all items that the Democrats — and not his fellow Republicans — would like to enact.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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