Rome News-Tribune

Democratic hawks want to go bigger than Biden on US defense spending

- By John M. Donnelly

WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee’s move to authorize significan­tly more defense spending next year than President Joe Biden wants demonstrat­es that there’s still a sizable number of Democratic hawks in the Senate willing to challenge the party’s dovish progressiv­e wing.

At the committee’s markup this week of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorizat­ion Act, Oklahoma’s James M. Inhofe, the ranking Republican, offered an amendment to authorize $25 billion more than Biden requested (and $37 billion more than what was appropriat­ed for the current fiscal year), aides said.

The committee has made little informatio­n about the closed markup public. But aides disclosed Friday that a separate vote was held on the total amount of funding, and they also revealed the final tally: 25-1.

That vote, with only Massachuse­tts Democrat Elizabeth Warren objecting, sends a powerful message in the ongoing debate over how to allocate the government’s discretion­ary budget, between defense and nondefense spending. It also indicates that the loud voices on the Democratic Party’s left, who complained that the 1.6% defense budget increase proposed by Biden was too large, will face a struggle in their own party.

The Armed Services Committee bill would authorize $777.9 billion for national defense programs in fiscal 2022 at the Pentagon and other department­s, 5% more than the current level. The bill would authorize $740.3 billion specifical­ly for the Defense Department, although appropriat­ors would make the final call on how much of the money is delivered.

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