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Rejecting Biden's $715 Billion Proposal, Jayapal Says Congress Must Slash the 'Bloated Pentagon Budget'

"Don't increase defense spending. Cut it," said the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Pentagon logo is seen ahead of a press conference on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia on January 28, 2021.

Pentagon logo is seen ahead of a press conference on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia on January 28, 2021. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Joining fellow progressive lawmakers in rejecting President Joe Biden's request for a $715 billion Pentagon budget, Rep. Pramila Jayapal on Saturday argued that Congress must slash military spending and "invest that money into our communities" as coronavirus infections rise across the U.S. and mass layoffs continue.

"This budget adds twelve billion new dollars for weapons of war; just think how that same amount could be used to invest in jobs, healthcare, and fighting inequality—especially as we fight back a once in a century public health and economic crisis."
—Rep. Barbara Lee

"We're in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent, and bills. But at the same time, we're dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget," said Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). "Don't increase defense spending. Cut it."

Biden's call for $753 billion in total military spending for Fiscal Year 2022—with $715 billion earmarked for the Defense Department—did not go over well with progressives in Congress and outside activists who have been pushing for a significant reduction in the Pentagon budget, which has risen year after year with bipartisan approval. If enacted, the president's new proposal would continue that trend.

"I was incredibly disappointed at the significant increase in Pentagon spending to even higher levels than the Trump administration," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, said in a statement. "With so many people across the country struggling to make ends meet, the last thing we need to do is increase investment in wasteful Pentagon spending."

"This budget adds twelve billion new dollars for weapons of war; just think how that same amount could be used to invest in jobs, healthcare, and fighting inequality—especially as we fight back a once in a century public health and economic crisis," Lee added. "I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for significant cuts to our needlessly inflated Pentagon budget. It is far past time to stop investing in endless war and begin investing in the American people."

The president's budget blueprint also calls for $769 billion in non-defense funding for FY2022, a 16% increase that Lee and other progressives applauded as an important step in the right direction. Compared to the current levels set under the Trump administration, Biden's budget would boost Education Department funding by 41%, Health and Human Services by 23%, and the Environmental Protection Agency by 21%.

"By investing in critical issues such as education, public housing, Covid-19 relief, and addressing the climate crisis, the Biden administration has taken a bold approach in addressing domestic priorities, while also heeding the lessons learned in the wake of the Great Recession," Dr. Rakeen Mabud, managing director of policy and research at the Groundwork Collaborative, said in a statement.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the CPC whip, offered similar praise for the president's non-defense budget proposal but added that "it is simply inexcusable to continue to shower weapons manufacturers with hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon waste."

"Endless wars destabilize societies, tear apart families, and increase anti-American sentiment," Omar said. "We as a nation should be prioritizing peace and human rights over militarism."

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