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Progressive Democrats Threaten to Tank $733 Billion in 'Crazy' Pentagon Spending If Social Programs Not Also Boosted

"How can we keep giving more money to the Pentagon than it needs when 40 million live in poverty, 34 million have no health insurance, and 140 million can't afford basic needs without going into debt?"

House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) questions Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during an oversight hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 08, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Update:

House Democratic leaders canceled a vote on the spending measure late Tuesday afternoon amid progressive backlash over the Pentagon budget.

Progressives are demanding boosts in domestic social spending in line with the Pentagon's budget increase.

"For us and for progressives... this is a big victory in that it became clear that without real, strong progressive inclusion into the process of a bill, we're not going to be able to get there," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement. "Hopefully everybody understands now that the best success for a united caucus is for us to be consulted and be at the table."

Earlier:

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are threatening to wield their significant power in the House to tank a key budget measure unless the Democratic leadership agrees to boost healthcare, education, and other domestic social spending in line with the Pentagon's budget increase.

"We need to prioritize our communities, not our military spending. Progressives aren’t backing down from this fight."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the 104-member CPC, are leading the push for an amendment that would add around $33 billion per year to domestic spending programs as part of a crucial two-year spending bill, which could receive a vote as early as Tuesday. The legislation would hike Pentagon spending to $733 billion per year.

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) are among the sponsors of the progressive amendment.

While the House Democratic leadership has agreed to bring the progressives' amendment on the floor for a vote, Politico reported late Monday that senior Democrats "privately hope it won't pass."

"House Democratic leaders are whipping the budget caps bill, but as of Monday night, the measure still didn't have enough votes to pass," Politico reported.

Jayapal said Tuesday that she would not vote for the underlying bill if her social spending amendment is not adopted.

"We need to prioritize our communities, not our military spending. Progressives aren’t backing down from this fight," Jayapal tweeted.

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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Tuesday vowed to vote against the overall spending measure (H.R. 2021).

"You can't oppose endless wars and then vote to fund them," tweeted Khanna, a CPC member. "Our strategic competitor China has not been in a war since 1979."

In a separate tweet Monday night, Khanna lamented the fact that "the Pentagon wants even more money for endless wars" as "millions of Americans don't have healthcare, young people go into debt for an education, and our infrastructure is crumbling."

"Democrats should stand tall and refuse to give Trump what he wants," declared the California Democrat.

As Common Dreams reported in March, House Democrats proposed to increase the Pentagon budget to $733 billion for fiscal year 2020—up from $716 billion—as a compromise with President Donald Trump's budget request, which called for $750 billion in annual military spending.

Warren Gunnels, staff director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), denounced the Democrats' proposal to hike Pentagon spending to $733 billion as "insanity" in a series of tweets over the weekend.

"How can we keep giving more money to the Pentagon than it needs when 40 million live in poverty, 34 million have no health insurance, half of older Americans have no retirement savings, and 140 million can't afford basic needs without going into debt?" Gunnels wrote.

In a letter on Monday, a coalition of progressive and conservative advocacy groups urged the House to vote down the budget measure.

"While lower than the president's request for $750 billion, which has been reported as a 'negotiating tactic' to ensure the most Pentagon spending, this level of Pentagon increase remains unacceptable and unwise—even, to borrow the president's words, 'crazy,'" the groups wrote. "The failed audit, the continued drumbeat of reports of Pentagon waste, inefficiencies, and mismanagement, and poll after poll after poll demonstrate that it is not in the interest of Americans for Congress to infuse massive amounts of new money into the Pentagon."

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