Senators sparred on Thursday over the impending cut of more than half a trillion dollars from the military budget, with Republicans trying to avert cuts that Democrats insisted were mandated by law.

The failure of a bipartisan congressional supercommittee to agree on measures to reduce the federal deficit triggered more than $1 trillion in mandatory trigger cuts over the next decade. A group of Republican senators offered legislation that would delay the cuts by a year, instead reducing the size of the federal workforce by 5 percent and extending a pay freeze on federal employees.

Do Cuts Undermine National Security?

The Pentagon is already set to chop almost half a trillion dollars from its budget over the next decade, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned that the additional billions in cuts would be ruinous and would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations. The GOP has cited Panetta's words in seeking to suspend the reductions.

I believe that the cuts ... aimed at the Department of Defense are a threat to our nation's security and we are opposed to that draconian action, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the legislation's sponsors, said at a news conference.

Democrats: Republicans Reneging on Supercommittee Deal

Democrats shot back that Republicans were reneging on the promises they made in agreeing to the super committee. An outgrowth of the bitterly partisan debate last summer over raising the federal debt ceiling, the supercommittee contained the automatic cuts as an incentive for lawmakers to make a deal.

I believe that an agreement is an agreement. I believe that a handshake is a handshake. Here we have more than a handshake -- we have a law that is in place in our country, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a news conference. They should keep their word. That's what the American people expect them to do, and that's what I expect them to do.

The supercommittee was created to resolve an impasse in deficit reduction talks that accompanied raising the debt ceiling. Democrats refused to accept the GOP's approach of only spending cuts, insisting on a deal that generated some new tax revenue. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-chair of the supercommittee, alluded to Republican instransigence when she dismissed the new plan to block military cuts.

If Republicans are serious about replacing the automatic spending cuts, Murray said, then they are going to need to work with Democrats to find an equal amount of balanced deficit reduction that doesn't simply increase the pain for the middle class.