Surprise endorsement by the Senate Armed Services Committee of a $25 billion increase in Pentagon’s budget was a complete blowout. It is the most clear sign yet that Democrats are willing to support substantial increases in President Joe Biden’s military spending plan.
According to four Senate aides who were privy to the proceedings, the committee approved a budget increase proposal Wednesday in a 25 to 1 vote.
In a bipartisan rejection of the White House proposal, the vote which raised the recommended Pentagon budget by $715 billion to more than $740 billion aligned Republican defense-hawks with Democrats across all political spectrums. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma’s top Republican on the panel, proposed the budget increase.
Only Elizabeth Warren (D.Mass.), a progressive Democrat, opposed the effort. According to two aides, Warren was against the effort. Warren, a vocal advocate of reducing defense spending from its historical high levels, has often voted against this policy bill (known as the National Defense Authorization Act).
The dozen Democrats who supported the defense spending increase included Armed Services Chair Jack Reed from Rhode Island, centrists Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, and Mark Kelly, Arizona, and progressive Kirsten Gillibrand, New York.
Although some Democrats appeared to be open to a budget increase in recent weeks they were unexpectedly unanimous and upends a tumultuous partisan discussion over federal spending, which already includes multi-trillion-dollar talks about infrastructure spending and the debt limit.
Some insiders still saw a defense budget increase as inevitable, with Democrats needing Republican votes in order to pass defense legislation in the House and Senate. They note that a $25 billion increase is not enough to offset the Democrats’ high-priority spending plans on infrastructure and other domestic priorities.
This decision will put pressure on the Democratic-led House Armed Services Committee, to approve a similar spending increase in its version the NDAA. The same applies to the Senate Appropriations Committee which, unlike Armed Services committees allocates funding. To make a budget increase a reality, it is necessary to reach a wider agreement on spending legislation than just the NDAA.
Up to this week, the GOP’s main focus was on increasing defense spending. Republicans have attacked Biden’s $715billion defense request as something that, while it is higher than the current year, won’t keep pace with inflation. Instead, GOP lawmakers called for a 3-5 percent increase above inflation. This is the range that was achieved by this week’s increase.