‘There was almost no debate’: How the Dems’ defense spending spree went from surprising to snoozer

Representative. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), a House Armed Services Committee member who voted in favor of the topline increase, noted the momentum of the topline debate. He said that there was almost no discussion in the committee.

Inflation, arming Ukraine in its fight against Russia and growing concerns about China’s military have trumped arguments that the Pentagon should try to trade and pay its dues. And as lawmakers of all political stripes look to secure cash for weapons and equipment built in their districts, bipartisan support for steady defense spending also weighs heavily on Democrats’ spending agenda. This upward trend will almost certainly accelerate if Republicans sweep the midterm elections.

“War. Inflation. That’s it. There’s a war going on, and America is seriously engaged in helping Ukraine,” the representative explained. John Garamandi (D-Calif.), a member of the armed services who opposed the increased top line. “It sets the tone for more, more, more for the Army.

“We lose that debate. That’s why,” he added.

Even as America’s longest war in Afghanistan ended months ago, Biden’s budget request called for a $30 billion increase over current-year levels for national defense programs. But support for even higher spending was echoing on Capitol Hill.

The House Armed Services Committee last month approved the $37 billion increase as part of the administration’s request. His version of the National Defense Authorization Act14 of the panel’s 31 Democrats side with Republicans.

This year, the rate hike plan was authored by two moderate Democrats. The amendment to extend the top line was tabled in committee last year by the ranking Armed Services Republican. Mike Rogers of Alabama, instead this year was sponsored by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elaine Loria (D-Va.).

Both years produced the same result: a 42-17 vote in favor of more money than the administration had asked for.

Action has been even more neutral in the Senate Armed Services Committee, which supported a $45 billion increase. His defense bill. Only one senator on the committee — a Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren – has voted against increasing defense spending in both years.

Although a majority of Democrats supported Biden’s proposed $802 billion budget on the House floor this month, a bipartisan coalition has so far eliminated progressive lawmakers from blocking or even cutting the Pentagon’s budget. Emphasizing.

“I think it’s an irrational fear that our party is portrayed as weak on defense in a TV ad where most people, I think, don’t want a trillion-dollar defense budget,” the progressive said. said the representative. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who opposed the bill over the high top line.

Many progressives argue that the defense budget has a favored position on Capitol Hill, with large spending increases taking precedence over funding for needs on the home front.

“We have given the Republicans so much veto power because we are unable to reach consensus within our own caucus on a defense bill that progressives and bluedogs will vote for,” Khanna said. “I suppose if [House Armed Services Chair] Adam Smith He had—that if he could get progressives to say, ‘Okay, we’ll vote for that’—he would be more willing to get the Democratic version. But it’s very difficult to do.”

Smith opposed the failure of a higher top line in his committee bill, but disagreed that defense is “unique” in federal spending. He cited the multi-trillion dollar emergency funding lawmakers approved to combat the coronavirus pandemic and reduce the economic toll of the virus.

“Republicans have say in whatever we’re going to pass … whatever the Democratic president is going to say, they’re going to say it should be higher,” Smith told OlxPraca.

Democrats’ inability to agree on defense legislation in a narrowly divided Congress, and the bill’s bipartisan tradition, have given Republican defense hawks enough leverage to secure a big top line.

“The breakdown is unfortunate. [and] Not too surprising,” said Julia Gledhill, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. “Democrats don’t want to appear weak on defense ahead of an expected red tide this fall, especially given the war in Ukraine and record inflation. in view of.”

Representative. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who opposed raising the cost of the defense bill during last month’s armed services debate, said the prospect of a funding increase “signals that Democrats are on their own Can’t pass any bill.”

“This is a bipartisan bill that is essential to national defense,” he said. “We certainly don’t have the numbers in the Senate, but we may lack them in the House.”

Rebuking Biden’s budget, the House and Senate defense bills also scrapped many of the Pentagon’s plans to scrap aging but popular weapons to save money.

Both bills mandate that five of the nine littoral combat ships the Navy has should be decommissioned. Lawmakers also restricted the Navy from retiring the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft and halted Air Force plans to shed F-22 Raptor fighter jets in both measures.

The House bill also earmarks $3.6 billion to boost shipbuilding. Lawmakers authorized an additional five ships that the Navy did not request. House Armed Services also repaired eight more F/A-18 Super Hornet jets for the Navy. And the House and Senate proposed buying more F-35s than requested — the House authorized three more for the Navy while the Senate approved seven more for the Air Force.

For some lawmakers, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a pivotal moment in securing a larger defense budget. Members approved several tranches of aid for Kyiv, including a $40 billion package enacted in May, about half of which went into Defense Department accounts.

“I think there’s just a recognition among more and more members that we live in a very dangerous world and we’re at risk,” Brown said.

The conflict, which has seen tens of thousands more troops deployed to Europe to bolster NATO nations and billions earmarked for years of efforts to replenish weapons stockpiles sent to Ukraine, has been protracted. There has been “a complete paradigm shift” in the debate. Term military spending, the representative said. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), chair of the House Armed Services’ Seapower Panel.

“I think the biggest interfering event is Ukraine,” Courtney said of the defense spending debate.

“If you look at what was different this year, I think the defense spending and the defense budget is in a completely different place right now,” he added.

Many armed services Democrats actually changed their minds on the top line this year, with even more money at stake.

Representatives Donald Norcross of New Jersey, Ruben Gallego and of Arizona Joe Morrell All of New York returned an inflated top line after voting against it a year ago. Representatives Seth Moulton Massachusetts and Hello Carbazal California opposed it despite supporting it last year. Representative. Sylvia Garcia An additional $37 billion was opposed when he replaced Philemon Vela, a fellow Texas Democrat who supported a higher top line last year.

A more notable but smaller change, Gledel said, are the 14 Republicans who voted to repeal the increase on the House floor. In a similar vote last year, no Republicans supported lowering the bill’s top line.

The debate is far from over. Even if the House and Senate armed services panels agree on legislation with a hefty price tag, Congress still must pass funding legislation to provide those dollars.

With the House and Senate on the brink of summer extensions and the prospect of major spending legislation fading before the midterm elections, lawmakers are likely to put federal spending on autopilot to begin fiscal year 2023. And delayed a major increase for the Pentagon.

The House Appropriations Committee stuck to Biden’s budget in its defense spending bill, a move Republicans oppose. The Senate is set to unveil its measure this week, and appropriators could approve spending increases similar to the upper chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“We believe the president’s budget is increasing the top line,” Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (DR.I.) told OlxPraca. “And I think what we did was very reasonable and I hope they follow through.”