Moderate Democrats rebuke defense budget cuts

Moderate Democrats rebuke defense budget cuts

WASHINGTON ― In the upcoming budget debate, a group of moderate Democrats are trying to set a floor for 2022 defense spending before progressive Democrats try to push it lower.

Leaders of the House’s Blue Dog Coalition say they oppose calls to fund any less than the requested $753 billion national defense budget for fiscal 2022—which included $715 billion for the Pentagon. The stance adds fuel to an already complicated budget debate, where Democrats are split and key Republicans are pushing for a boost.

“We believe this is a strong and sensible funding request, and we oppose calls to authorize or appropriate funding below this level,” the six lawmakers said in a June 24 letter to leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations Committee.

The lawmakers on the letter are Reps. Mikie Sherrill, of New Jersey; Tom O’Halleran, of Arizona; Stephanie Murphy, of Florida; Ed Case, of Hawaii; Abigail Spanberger, of Virginia, and Kurt Schrader, of Oregon.

A group of six is significant in the House, where the 220-211 partisan split means Democrats can only lose four members on any party-line vote. The letter comes as some Democrats are worrying that appropriations bills will have difficulty garnering the necessary support to advance before the August recess.

“My understanding is that it isn’t just my bill that’s in trouble, just appropriations across the board,” Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard told CQ on Wednesday. “A lot of the subcommittees are having problems for different reasons.”

The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense is set to release its proposed defense spending bill this week.

The letter from the Blue Dog bloc emphasizes President Joe Biden’s budget request, which sets them at odds with a group of 50 House progressives who have called on Biden to “significantly” slash defense. However, it does not rule out an alliance with key Republicans, who have have said defense must rise 3-5 percent above inflation to counter a rising China.

The lawmakers joined bipartisan pushback against the Biden request’s formulation of the China-focused Pacific Deterrence Initiative, saying Congress should “provide no less than $4.68 billion,” for FY22, as outlined by Indo-Pacific Command’s Section 1251 report. (Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged the criticism and said the Pentagon will work with Congress to correct them.)

Also on Thursday, several Senate Republicans held a press conference to say Biden’s defense spending proposal is too low, and they challenged moderate Democrats to join them. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said moderate Democrats, and Pentagon leaders, have told him privately that they are unhappy with the budget.

“We think think national defense should be the top priory of the Congress, not the last priority, ad I think we have the American people behind us on this,” he said. “I think there’ll be tough votes for Democratic senators from states ― Virginia, Georgia, Arizona ― think about those states, very pro-military states.”

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.