SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Traveling across Georgia to tout his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Republican Rep. Paul Broun said Friday that he sees $100 billion in automatic budget cuts as Washington's only realistic option for trimming spending. Even with the Pentagon warning that the cuts would devastate the military, Broun said: "I want to see it go into place."
"It's the only way that we're going to get any positive spending cuts, and I'm in favor of the sequester going into place," Broun said in an interview Friday as he stopped in Savannah. "We've got to reel in the spending with Congress as well as the president. Both parties are guilty."
Broun, of Athens, officially announced his campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss on Wednesday, making him the first and so far only candidate to do so for the 2014 race. He wasted no time in making a lap of the state's major cities, sitting for interviews and meeting with tea party leaders and other supporters. Broun swung through Augusta on Thursday before heading Friday to Savannah and Macon. Stops in Columbus and Albany were planned over the weekend before the congressman returns to Washington.
The automatic budget cuts are scheduled to kick in March 1 if Democrats and Republicans can't reach an agreement to trim $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Sequestration would trigger $42.7 billion in cuts to the military over seven months. Domestic programs would face equal cuts.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, trying to head off cutbacks that would shrink the Pentagon budget by 7 percent, said Thursday that the measure was "designed to be so nuts that everybody would do everything possible to make sure it didn't happen."
Broun is courting tea party supporters and other fiscal hawks as he calls for slashing government spending. He served in the Marines and is still in the Navy Reserve. Broun said he's confident much of the funding the Pentagon would lose in the automatic cuts would be restored down the road, though it would likely take several years.
"We can plus-up the military as soon as we make those cuts that are necessary," Broun said. "If we have a financial meltdown in America as we're doing today, we won't have the money to support our defense."
With plenty of time left to join the 2014 Senate race, several of Broun's fellow GOP congressmen are being mentioned as possible contenders for the Republican nomination, such as Reps. Paul Gingrey of Marietta, Jack Kingston of Savannah and Tom Price of Roswell. National Democrats say they plan to wage a fierce challenge for the Georgia seat.
So far, Broun is sticking to a message that he'd be the only candidate willing to stop runaway spending in Washington. But since winning his House seat in 2007, the physician has widely been known outside his northeast Georgia district for ultraconservative statements on social issues.
Last year Broun grabbed national headlines when he told a Baptist church group that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory were "lies straight from the pit of hell." On Friday he brushed aside questions about whether such statements might turn off voters in a statewide general election.
"It's well known that I'm a Bible-believing Christian, and I understand that other people have different beliefs and I respect those beliefs," Broun said. "But what everybody in this state — whether they're black or white, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — can understand very clearly is we have to stop the out-of-control spending in Washington."