Distinguishing himself from his 2020 presidential rivals on the issue of America's obscene military spending—which continues to soar year after year with bipartisan support—Sen. Bernie Sanders touted his record as the only candidate on stage during Thursday night's Democratic debate who has opposed all of President Donald Trump's Pentagon budget proposals.
"I think... I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump's military budgets," the Vermont senator said to applause. "I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is."
"The Pentagon is set to grow by $90 billion and reach $738 billion next year. For $90 billion, we could double nutrition assistance or provide $7,000 to every child in poverty."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
In 2017, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas.)—the only other 2020 contenders on stage Thursday who were in Congress at the time—all voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, which handed the Pentagon $700 billion. Sanders voted no.
Sanders also voted against the 2019 NDAA and a procedural motion for the 2020 NDAA. The House and Senate still have to reconcile the 2020 NDAA before both chambers take a final vote on the legislation.
"I think that what we have got to do is bring this world together—bring it together on climate change, bring it together in fighting against terrorism, and make it clear that we as a planet, as a global community, will work together to help countries around the world rebuild their struggling economies and do everything that we can to rid the world of terrorism," said Sanders.
"But dropping bombs on Afghanistan and Iraq was not the way to do it," added the senator.
"I think I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump's military budgets. I don't think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don't even know who our enemy is" @BernieSanders #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/YhAYjZ0DcT
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) September 13, 2019
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Sanders also took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden's support for the Iraq War, a record Biden attempted to obfuscate in the days leading up to Thursday's debate in Houston.
"You talked about the big mistake in Iraq and the surge. The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake, and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq," said Sanders, addressing Biden. "I voted against the war in Iraq and helped lead the opposition."
As Common Dreams reported in August, Sanders has called for slashing America's enormous Pentagon budget and using the funds to invest in domestic priorities like healthcare, tuition-free college, and assistance for the poor.
At a time when the U.S. already spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined, Trump is proposing an $861 billion increase in base defense spending over 10 years.
For the same cost, we could make public colleges and universities tuition-free for a decade.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 11, 2019
"The Pentagon is set to grow by $90 billion and reach $738 billion next year. For $90 billion, we could double nutrition assistance or provide $7,000 to every child in poverty," Sanders tweeted last month. "We cannot keep handing over billions to the military-industrial complex."