Democrats give $ 25 billion Pentagon funding boost
House Democrats voted a $ 25 billion boost to the Pentagon budget, tying it to the annual defense policy bill in a strong rebuke of President Biden’s proposal to increase spending defense below the rate of inflation.
Thursday night’s House vote 316-113 on the General National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with the spending increase left untouched, was a victory for Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats as the legislation advances in the Senate.
âI think it’s a big win, and it is a testament to the ranking member Rogers pushing him and his leadership,â Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher said of Rep. Mike Rogers from the Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
“It’s a down payment,” Gallagher added.
Mr Biden has faced a backlash from lawmakers to his defense budget proposal, with Republicans and some Democrats sounding the alarm over the mostly flat figure despite growing threats from Russia and China.
The House and Senate armed services committees included the measure in their final committee markup, but the spending increase was greeted with the expected setback from left-wing progressives once the bill was debated by the whole House.
Two California Democrats – Representative Barbara Lee, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Sara Jacobs, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee – have proposed an amendment to reverse the $ 25 billion increase .
But the chamber rejected it by a margin of 286 to 142.
Ms Lee said the additional funding did not hold the Pentagon responsible for years of out of control spending. She said trillions of dollars had been spent in 20 years in Afghanistan, and said much of it had been stolen or wasted, noting that the Pentagon had failed a fault-free audit despite being ordered to do so. do under a law she helped create.
âWe really need to look at what’s going on in the Pentagon in terms of spending,â Ms. Lee said.
The House also decisively overturned a separate measure to impose an additional 10% haircut on Mr Biden’s proposal, proposed by New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This vote was 332-86.
With the additional spending, the NDAA is authorizing $ 768 billion for defense programs in 2022.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican from Florida and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the votes sent a clear message.
“President Biden has given us a budget that does not meet the needs of the country from a national defense point of view,” he said. âMuch of the nuclear modernization we needed was not in the Biden budget. And some of the extra airpower we need to stay on top was not in the Biden budget. And so we did what Congress does – we added a little bit to the mix and I think we made it a better bill. “
But for some Republicans, winning over funding was not enough to convince them to support the bill, which they say failed to hold Mr Biden responsible for the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and included amendments that would transform “our army into a progressive social society.” experience.”
On Tuesday, members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of more than 40 conservative Republicans, announced they would oppose the bill on several key provisions.
Namely, lawmakers oppose a provision included in the committee version of the bill that would require women to register for the bill. The group also wants measures included in the bill that would fund critical race theory training for federal employees, which was not passed in committee.
“A vote for this is to vote to give the Biden administration a free pass for what they did in the evacuation in Afghanistan,” said Representative Andy Biggs, president of the Arizona Republican and of the House Freedom Caucus. “It’s a vote to force women to sign up for the project, and a vote to allow a deliberately conflicting ideology to become part of our military training.”
Rep. Chip Roy, Republican from Texas and another member of the Freedom Caucus, became enraged at the measure to include women in the project during a press conference Wednesday on the eve of the vote.
“In no way should a civilized country, the United States of America, with the capacity to have a force of volunteers of the size and caliber and strength that we have, should say that we are going to force women to be enlisted in the United States. Military states, âRoy said. “I cannot express in words how angry and undermining this idea is to me as a nation.”
“And I can’t believe the Republicans in the House are pushing it aside, sweeping it under the rug, refusing to talk about it,” he said. “As they move forward blindly, saying the conference supports the passage of the NDAA.”
Mr. Rogers said earlier in the week that the tactics of his fellow Republicans were irrelevant.
âThe things they chose, you just have to point out that we are in the minority,â he said. âEveryone’s going to get something they don’t like in the bill and that doesn’t mean you vote against it just because there are a couple of things you don’t like. “
Mr Gallagher echoed Mr Rogers’ position on Thursday. He said he voted against including women in the project and said he believed the selective service as a whole was obsolete, but it was not worth the trouble to sink the whole bill.
“I hope we can get rid of this at the conference and that it will allay everyone’s concerns,” he said. “Otherwise, we will have to remedy it when we take control of the House because I agree with them on the matter.” “
“But I don’t think it’s worth destroying the NDAA right now and I hope we can fix it in conference,” he said.
Mr Gaetz, who voted in favor of the bill, acknowledged that among the more than 400 amendments included in the bill, there were added “poison pills”, which he hopes Congress can bring to bear. point in conference and through the Senate Vote.
But he said that at the end of the day he expects a “clean NDAA that almost everyone should be proud enough to vote for.”
âThe macro theme of this NDAA is a fulcrum for close opponents and competition from the great powers and it gives me a lot of enthusiasm,â he said.