Sep 01, 2021
With public awareness of U.S. war spending elevated in the wake of American troops exiting Afghanistan, a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday approved a $37.5 billion increase to the Pentagon budget from last year, angering progressive lawmakers and anti-war activists.
The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) voted 42-17 to approve Ranking Member Mike Rogers' (R-Ala.) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 (H.R. 4350). Fourteen Democrats joined with the panel's Republicans to support it.
As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, the NDAA amendment would add $25 billion to President Joe Biden's $753 billion topline military spending request for the next fiscal year--at a time when progressives are calling for bold investment in urgent human needs.
"Today, the House Armed Services Committee voted to put arms dealer profits before the needs of everyday people," Win Without War senior Washington director Erica Fein said Wednesday. "Let's not mince words: Every congressperson who voted for this should be ashamed."
The advocacy group called out the committee's Democrats and Republicans who voted for the amendment while also thanking those who spoke out and voted against it.
"Right now, people around the country are struggling to survive in the middle of a pandemic that has already taken the lives of millions," Fein said. "Right now, families are being thrown out of their homes because they can't afford rent. Right now, lives are being upturned in Louisiana, California, Tennessee, and beyond by the devastating effects of climate change."
"In the midst of all of this, HASC chose to spend tens of billions of dollars inflating the already bloated Pentagon budget and lining the pockets of wealthy arms-makers at the expense of working families," she continued. "It is astonishing that now, of all times, when we should be continuing to end our endless wars, HASC is doubling down on the same approach to national security we've seen fail for decades."
Fein, on behalf of her group, added that "we urge the full House to reject this dangerous Pentagon giveaway when it considers the NDAA later this month."
That call was echoed by members of the women-led anti-war group CodePink.
"A day after the United States withdrew from one of the most costly wars in history, the absolute LAST thing congressional representatives should be doing is increasing the Pentagon budget," said CodePink national co-director Carley Towne in a statement.
"Add to that the fact that we're facing Covid, an ongoing climate catastrophe, and a struggling economy and it's clearer than ever that we cannot allow our representatives to continue this costly and destructive forever war paradigm," Towne said. "We need to slash the Pentagon budget and invest in what will truly make us safe: healthcare, a Green New Deal, and public housing."
CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin called Wednesday's vote "unbelievable."
"After wasting over $2 trillion on the Afghan fiasco, the House Armed Services Committee just voted to give the Pentagon $25 billion MORE than the enormous 2022 Pentagon budget Biden had asked for," she said. "Talk about corruption! Look no further than our Congress!"
William Hartung, director of Arms & Security Program at the Center for International Policy, noted that "Biden's proposed Pentagon budget was already at near-record levels before the House Armed Services Committee's reckless recommendation to add nearly $24 billion--higher than the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam wars or the Reagan buildup of the 1980s."
Arguing that "it is irresponsible to throw more money at the Pentagon at a time when the greatest risks to our security are not military in nature," Hartung pointed out that the billions in proposed additions to the "already bloated budget is over one and one-half times the entire annual budget of the Centers for Disease Control."
"If we're concerned about making America and the world safer, we should be investing more funds in addressing pandemics, climate change, and racial and economic injustice--not buying weapons we don't need at prices we can't afford," he said, calling the vote "good news for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and other big weapons contractors and bad news for the American public."
During the full committee markup for the NDAA, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) made his opposition to the GOP amendment clear and highlighted that such a proposal shouldn't be moving forward, considering that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
\u201cI have always voted to advance the Defense budget to the floor. I will not this time now that we\u2019ve added $23.9 billion more than our President and Pentagon requested. If a Democratic President and Democratic House and Senate cannot stand up to these increases, then when will we?\u201d— Rep. Ro Khanna (@Rep. Ro Khanna) 1630524854
HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also opposed the amendment but reiterated support for Biden's initial proposal--which progressive critics have argued for months is far too high.
Hartung said in April that "the Biden administration's decision to increase the Pentagon budget from near-record levels is both misguided and disappointing," while Fein called it "unconscionable."
Wednesday's committee vote provoked similarly scathing condemnation from Joseph Cirincione, a distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, who took to Twitter to blast the move as "outrageous" and "strategically bankrupt."
"In a time of climate crisis, a raging pandemic, rampant racial injustice, and growing income inequity," he said, "Congress votes to increase the size of the trough for the arms dealers who fund their campaigns."
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