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Passionate about Defense: The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said the fiscal situation faced by the Defense Department is so dire that he may even consider voting for a tax increase for the first time in his political career. "I have never voted for a tax increase. I don't ever plan on voting for a tax increase," Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.) told an audience during his speech Monday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. "But if it came down that I had only two choices: one was to make a tax increase, one was to cut defense over and above what we already are, I would go to strengthen defense." The six Republicans on the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction likely will press for cuts and stand against a tax increase, while the six Democrats on the panel likely will argue that one is not possible without the other. The challenge will be reaching a compromise before the automatic cuts outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 kick in and the Pentagon's budget is slashed beyond repair, said McKeon. (See also the joint committee's new website.)