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Day After Voting Down 10% Pentagon Cut, 37 Senate Dems Join GOP to Approve $740 Billion War Budget

"I don't want to hear anyone tell me that we can't afford to expand enhanced unemployment benefits when we spend more on endless wars than the next ten countries combined," said Rep. Ro Khanna.

Protesters march against U.S. military intervention and spending. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/cc)

Hours after the Republican Party released a coronavirus relief proposal including $0 for election assistance funding and no additional funding for cities and states as the country continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, allocating $740.5 billion to the Pentagon.  

The annual military budget bill was passed with a vote of 86-14, with 37 Democrats joining the Republicans in supporting the proposal. View the full roll call here. 

Progressives including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.),and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) voted against the bill.

The bill was passed a day after an amendment proposed by Sanders and Markey to cut the Pentagon's budget by 10% and redirect that funding toward significant investments in education, healthcare, and housing in poor communities—was rejected in the Senate, with a majority of Democrats siding with the GOP.

Democrats in the House also overwhelmingly joined Republicans to block a similar amendment put forward by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

The Senate bill includes $636.4 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, $25.9 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy, and $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the bill—on the grounds that it includes an amendment, introduced by Warren, to rename military bases which memorialize Confederate figures—but the budget was passed with more than two-thirds of the Senate's support, a veto-proof majority.

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The House and Senate are now expected to reconcile their two versionsof the NDAA; the House bill includes a 3% pay raise for troops and $3.6 billion to combat China.

Earlier on Thursday, the GOP released its proposal for the next coronavirus relief bill, stipulating that the party would not approve the continuation of the full $600 boost in unemployment insurance, included in the CARES Act in March, which helped keep millions of Americans out of poverty in the first months of the pandemic. 

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who joined other progressives in the House in voting against the NDAA, reacted with disgust at the misplaced priorities made evident by the Pentagon budget's Senate approval and the GOP's proposal on Covid-19 relief.

Paul Kawika Martin, senior director and policy and political affairs at Peace Action, called on Democrats who continuously support hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending "take note that voters want government spending to put 'people over Pentagon.'"

"We should prioritize eradicating poverty, not war," wrote Markey on Wednesday, after the amendment he introduced failed in the Senate. "We should prioritize battling global-killer diseases, not developing new weapons designed to eradicate the human race. It is time we fund education, not annihilation. Medicaid, not missiles."

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