A 1% Cut to the Bloated Pentagon Budget Is Too Much for Congress to Handle

On Friday, the House passed the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act by a routinely large margin of 344 to 81.

The FY 2018 NDAA authorizes nearly $700 billion for the Department of Defense and other related agencies, programs, and operations: $621.5 billion for base budget requirements and $74.6 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (a war-making slush fund).

Both Democrats and Republicans have been willing to allow the Pentagon to evade sequestration budget caps. The OCO has offered one way to do this: $10 billion of the OCO’s $74.6 billion will go to base budget requirements. But even without that trick, the NDAA still authorizes $72 billion more than the $549 billion budget cap Congress agreed to as part of the Budget Control Act.

Sequestration, of course, was a blunt instrument, but the US spends more on “defense” than the next 14 countries combined by some measures, accounting for more than one-third of global “defense” spending. (“Defense,” of course, belongs in quotes because much of the US’s spending is more offensive, than defensive, in nature.)

It is a moral atrocity to spend this amount of money on war and weaponry and then say that we have “no money” to guarantee lifetime health coverage for all and high-quality public education for all (through higher ed), and “no money” to end poverty and homelessness.

The Budget Control Act sequestration budget caps on non-defense discretionary spending (i.e., social spending outside of mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) have had major negative effects, normalizing austerity for basic social services. But Congress has always been more keen to waive budget caps for the Pentagon.

The Vote Itself

Despite these reasons to be appalled by the level of US military spending, 227 Republicans and 117 Democrats voted for the FY 2018 NDAA. 73 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted against it.

The 8 Republicans were Justin Amash (MI-03), Jimmy Duncan (TN-02), Tom Garrett (VA-05), Louie Gohmert (TX-01). Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Andy Harris (MD-01), Tom Massie (KY-04), and Tom McClintock (CA-04).

And here are the 73 Democrats:

Alma Adams (NC-12)

Nanette Barragán (CA-40)

Karen Bass (CA-37)

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)

G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)

Mike Capuano (MA-07)

Andre Carson (IN-07)

Judy Chu (CA-32)

David Cicilline (RI-01)

Katherine Clark (MA-05)

Yvette Clarke (NY-09)

Steve Cohen (TN-09)

John Conyers (MI-13)

Joe Crowley (NY-14)

Pete DeFazio (OR-04)

Diana DeGette (CO-01)

Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)

Mike Doyle (PA-14)

Keith Ellison (MN-05)

Anna Eshoo (CA-18)

Adriano Espaillat (NY-13)

Marcia Fudge (OH-11)

Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

Jimmy Gomez (CA-34)

Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)

Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)

Jared Huffman (CA-02)

Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)

Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)

Hank Johnson (GA-04)

Robin Kelly (IL-02)

Joe Kennedy (MA-04)

Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Dan Kildee (MI-05)

Brenda Lawrence (MI-14)

Barbara Lee (CA-13)

Sandy Levin (MI-09)

John Lewis (GA-05)

Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)

Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)

Doris Matsui (CA-06)

Jim McGovern (MA-02)

Grace Meng (NY-06)

Gwen Moore (WI-04)

Jerry Nadler (NY-10)

Richard Neal (MA-01)

Frank Pallone (NJ-06)

Donald Payne (NJ-10)

Mark Pocan (WI-02)

Jared Polis (CO-02)

David Price (NC-04)

Jamie Raskin (MD-08)

Cedric Richmond (LA-02)

Linda Sanchez (CA-38)

Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)

Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

Jose Serrano (NY-15)

Brad Sherman (CA-30)

Louise Slaughter (NY-25)

Jackie Speier (CA-14)

Eric Swalwell (CA-15)

Mark Takano (CA-41)

Mike Thompson (CA-05)

Paul Tonko (NY-20)

Niki Tsongas (MA-03)

Juan Vargas (CA-51)

Filemon Vela (TX-34)

Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)

Pete Visclosky (IN-01)

Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)

Pete Welch (VT-AL)

John Yarmuth (KY-03)

20 budget amendments received roll call votes. I’d like to highlight two of them now and will devote later posts to some of the others.

A Mere 1% Cut

First is an amendment from Jared Polis (CO-02) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) to reduce the base Defense Department budget by 1% (excluding military/reserve/National Guard personnel and the Defense Health Program account).

It failed 73 to 351.

69 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for it.

Here are the 4 Republicans: Jimmy Duncan (TN-02), Walter Jones (NC-03), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05).

And here are the 69 Democrats (interestingly, only 47, or 2/3, overlap with the NO votes on the NDAA itself):

Nanette Barragán (CA-40)

Karen Bass (CA-37)

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)

Tony Cardenas (CA-29)

Andre Carson (IN-07)

Kathy Castor (FL-14)

Judy Chu (CA-32)

Katherine Clark (MA-05)

Yvette Clarke (NY-09)

Lacy Clay (MO-01)

Jim Clyburn (SC-06)

Steve Cohen (TN-09)

John Conyers (MI-13)

Joe Crowley (NY-14)

Danny Davis (IL-07)

Pete DeFazio (OR-04)

Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)

Keith Ellison (MN-05)

Eliot Engel (NY-16)

Adriano Espaillat (NY-13)

Anna Eshoo (CA-18)

Dwight Evans (PA-02)

John Garamendi (CA-03)

Jimmy Gomez (CA-34)

Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)

Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)

Alcee Hastings (FL-20)

Jared Huffman (CA-02)

Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)

Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)

Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)

Robin Kelly (IL-02)

Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Dan Kildee (MI-05)

Barbara Lee (CA-13)

Sandy Levin (MI-09)

John Lewis (GA-05)

Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)

Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)

Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)

Jim McGovern (MA-02)

Gregory Meeks (NY-05)

Jerry Nadler (NY-10)

Frank Pallone (NJ-06)

Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)

Nancy Pelosi (CA-12)

Chellie Pingree (ME-01)

Mark Pocan (WI-02)

Jared Polis (CO-02)

Mike Quigley (IL-06)

Jamie Raskin (MD-08)

Bobby Rush (IL-01)

Linda Sanchez (CA-38)

John Sarbanes (MD-04)

Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)

Jose Serrano (NY-15)

Brad Sherman (CA-30)

Louise Slaughter (NY-25)

Adam Smith (WA-09)

Mark Takano (CA-41)

Paul Tonko (NY-20)

Niki Tsongas (MA-03)

Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)

Maxine Waters (CA-43)

Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)

Pete Welch (VT-AL)

Frederica Wilson (FL-24)

Restoring Social Spending

And the second one to highlight here is the amendment from Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Mark Pocan (WI-02), and Raul Grijalva (AZ-03) to express the sense of Congress that any increases to the combined “defense” budget (base + OCO) should be matched dollar-for-dollar with increases to the non-defense discretionary budget.

It failed 179 to 245.

177 Democrats and 2 Republicans — Jimmy Duncan (TN-02) and Walter Jones (NC-03) — voted for it, and 233 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 12 Democrats:

Ami Bera (CA-07)

Jim Cooper (TN-05)

Lou Correa (CA-46)

Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05)

Seth Moulton (MA-06)

Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)

Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)

Scott Peters (CA-52)

Jacky Rosen (NV-03)

Brad Schneider (IL-10)

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Marc Veasey (TX-33)

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