Lieberman’s on the fence in the debt deal, citing concerns about deep defense cuts

Sen. Joseph Lieberman has been one of the most vocal members of the Connecticut delegation when it comes to calling for major fiscal reform in Washington. Any meaningful package, the Democrat-turned-independent has said, must include both tax increases and entitlement cuts.

But Lieberman signaled that he might draw a line in the sand Sunday night on a third element–defense cuts–that are on the table in the agreement reached yesterday between the White House and congressional leaders.

In a statement released Sunday evening, Lieberman said any defense cuts must be “fair, limited, and mindful of the fact that we live in a very dangerous world.  For these reasons, Senator Lieberman is very concerned about rumors that the debt agreement now being negotiated will disproportionately cut defense spending and result in unacceptably high risk to our national security.”

On Monday, surrounded by a swarm of reporters asking how he would vote on the deal, Lieberman said he was on the fence. He noted that the first phase of the debt agreement would cut $300 billion from the defense. And if no agreement is reached on a second set of debt reduction steps later this year, automatic spending cuts will be triggered, with the hit divided evenly between defense and domestic programs.

“I’m worried about it,” Lieberman said of that second phase of the agreement. “But I’m trying to balance the greater good of the agreement, avoiding default, [and] cutting spending against the risk of what happens if the trigger is actually pulled.”