Just two days After the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan, more than a dozen Democrats defied strong ties to military establishment President Joe Biden and voted to add nearly $ 24 billion to the defense budget for the fiscal year 2022.
On Wednesday, 14 Democrats joined 28 Republicans in the House Armed Services Committee to pass a change from rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., For the fiscal year 2022 of the Defense Permit Act that would increase Biden’s $ 715 billion spending proposal to $ 738.9 billion. This move follows the vote of the Senate Armed Services Committee to similarly raise the top line to more than $ 740 billion in the July bill.
The 14 House Democrats who supported defense spending were Representatives Jim Langevin of Rhode Island; Joe Courtney of Connecticut; Jared Golden of Maine; Elaine Luria of Virginia; Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey; Stephanie Murphy of Florida; Anthony Brown of Maryland; Filemon Vela of Texas; Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Salud Carbajal of California; Elissa Slotkin of Michigan; Kai Kahele from Hawaii; Marc Veasey of Texas; and Steven Horsford of Nevada.
The decision by these legislators to approve the higher budget is not necessarily shocking in a political environment where military leaders are demanding an annual budget growth of 3 to 5 percent over inflation. The bid of $ 715 billion was a 1.5% unadjusted increase over this year’s spending level.
A congressman who was not allowed to speak on the record said in an email, “many dams, especially when they served [on the House Armed Services Committee] is reluctant to look ‘soft on defense’ by opposing increases in the defense budget, so in some ways it is surprising that the majority of demers still voted against the increase in the top line. “Seventeen Democrats voted against Roger’s amendment, not enough to prevent it from being included in the bill.)
Many of the Democrats who voted for the $ 24 billion increase have close ties to the Defense Institute. Their districts are home to job-promoting production sites and military bases, and much of the extra funding goes directly to projects at these sites. Many of the Democrats have also received generous campaign donations from entrepreneurs. In fact, data from the Federal Election Commission show that in the first six months of this year, the 14 Democrats received a total of at least $ 135,000 from PACs representing the country’s top 10 defense salesmen: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, L3Harris, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Leidos, Honeywell and Booz Allen Hamilton.
A closer look reveals potentially strong incentives for Democrats to support an increase in defense spending:
- By voting for the $ 24 billion increase, Courtney, chair of the subcommittee on sailors and projection forces, secured more than $ 560 million for an additional Virginia-class submarine for the Navy. The submarine was built in Courtney’s district at General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Groton shipyard. The Entrepreneur’s PAC was his largest donor at the 2020 congressional election, and it earned him $ 3,000 during the first half of this year. He received at least an additional $ 10,500 from other major defense contractors, including $ 5,000 from Northrop Grumman’s PAC.
- General Dynamics’ PAC was also the largest donor in the 2020 election cycle to Langevin, chair of the new threats and capabilities subcommittees. Its electric boat’s subsidiary also has a production site in its state that employs the Rhode Islanders to help produce fleet submarines, including Virginia class. Langevin received at least $ 14,500 from major defense contractors during the first six months of this year, including $ 4,500 from General Dynamics’ PAC.
- By voting for the budget increase, Golden gave more than $ 1.6 billion to destroyers in the Navy Arleigh Burke class, based at Maine’s Bath Iron Works yard. In May, Golden joined other members of Maine’s congressional delegation push back against Biden’s plans to limit the purchase of the warship and complain that it would break a 2018 contract with General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls Industries.
- After voting for the $ 24 billion increase, Sherrill issued a press release saying she had secured tens of thousands of dollars in extra funding for Army Picatinny Arsenal, the largest employer in her district. Sherrill received at least $ 11,000 from top defense contractors in the first half of 2021, including $ 3,000 from Huntington Ingalls PAC and $ 2,500 from L3Harris PAC.
- Horsford’s Nevada District hosts two prominent military installations: the Nellis Air Force Base and the Creech Air Force Base, home to the 432nd Wing of the MQ-9 Reapers. The $ 24 billion addition includes $ 53 million for US Central Command’s MQ-9 battle lines.
- Of the 14 Democrats who were to vote for a higher defense budget, Brown received the most donations from military contractors this year: at least $ 25,000. In the 2020 election cycle, his biggest donors were employees of the contractor Leidos. Meanwhile, Luria received the second largest amount, $ 20,500, which included $ 8,000 from the Huntington Ingalls PAC. She is known as one of the most hawkish Democrats; she was the only member of her party to vote against repeal endorsement of the Iraq war of 2002 earlier this year.
- In addition, during the first six months of 2021, Veasey received $ 20,000 from the PACs of the top 10 defense contractors; Murphy got $ 12,000; Carbajal got $ 8,500; and Kahele received $ 4,500.
Meanwhile, some of the 14 Democrats who defied Biden for voting for greater defense spending have also tried to thwart their party’s efforts to achieve the president’s domestic policy goals – particularly Medicare expansion, paid family leave, an extension of the child tax credit and billions of dollars to clean energy and other climate initiatives. Golden and Vela joined New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer last month to insist House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Hold an immediate vote on a $ 550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill rather than wait to finish. Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Murphy later joined the call aeration concerns on the size of the atonement bill. Their claim was ultimately unsuccessful.
Despite so many members of Congress voting to add money to defense budgets, 17 Democrats were still opposed to Roger’s change, including committee chairman Adam Smith of Washington, who received $ 32,000 in donations from the PACs from the top 10 defense contractors in the first half. of this year – most of any Democrat on the panel.
Despite disagreeing with the increase, Smith and most others still voted to approve the overall defense legislation and still bring it to the floor. (In fact, the 15 Democrats who voted against the higher budget, but nonetheless collectively, the bill collectively received a few thousand dollars more in donations from the top 10 military entrepreneurs than the 14 who supported Rogers’ amendment.) Only California Reps. Sara Jacobs and Ro Khanna – who did not receive any money from the sellers – stood firm and voted against the adoption of the bill.
“[A]After twenty years of war in Afghanistan, twenty years with our service members and their families who responded to the call, trillions of dollars in funding from the American people, I can not support another deceptive effort to exceed the Pentagon’s budget beyond what our military leaders even is requesting, ”Jacobs said in a press release.
For Khanna, Wednesday was the first time he voted against moving the annual defense proposal out of committee for five years; he argued that the $ 24 billion would be better spent on helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, resettling Afghan allies and refugees, or vaccinating people against Covid-19.