House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan admitted Sunday he “misspoke” when questioning the integrity of top generals on military spending needs, and said he has apologized to the Pentagon’s top adviser to the president.
“I really misspoke,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “And I did not mean to impugn the integrity of the military in any way.” Asked whether he has apologized to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ryan said, “Yeah, I called him and told him that.”
“It was not the impression I meant to give,” Ryan added on ABC’s This Week. “I talked to General Dempsey on it, and expressed that sentiment.”
Calling his words “clumsy,” Ryan doubled down on his broader point that the Pentagon is conforming to adjusted military spending levels in President Obama’s budget, when he argues they should have put out their plan first.
The background here is a political tug-of-war over military spending. In their new budget, House Republicans push to roll back defense sequestration cuts agreed to in the debt limit deal and set military funding at higher levels than President Obama wants to.
On Thursday, Ryan questioned whether generals are telling the truth about their budget.
“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget,” he said at a budget summit hosted by National Journal. “I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget.”
That provoked a retort from Dempsey.
“There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” Gen. Dempsey told reporters. “My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.