GOP reps to Boehner: Spend at least $561 billion on defense

Greg Nash

A group of 70 House Republicans wants the GOP budget resolution for the next fiscal year to at least match President Obama’s request for $561 billion in defense spending, $38 billion over spending caps put in place in 2011.

“We write to you today regarding the Fiscal Year 2016 House budget resolution and to express our unwavering support for fully funding national defense at or above the $561 billion identified by the president in his budget request,” the group — led by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) — said in a Feb. 27 letter.

“While we understand the current fiscal constraints and the continued burden placed on non-defense programs as a result of the president’s sequestration, we cannot afford to jeopardize the safety and security of the homeland and our interests abroad,” lawmakers added.

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The missive was sent the same day House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) fired off a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) asking for $577 billion for defense spending, or at least last year’s authorized level of $566 billion.

Together, the letters signal a looming fight between defense hawks and fiscal conservatives over how much the U.S. spends on national security.

Thornberry, and his counterpart, Sen. John McCainJohn McCainTrump should apologize to heroic POWs McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money Senators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels MORE (R-Ariz.), have gone on record saying the final dollar figure should be higher than the president’s request, which was unveiled early last month.

The group’s letter indicates there is a growing appetite for more defense spending, regardless of the caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“Since the onset of sequestration, we have held countless hearings, heard testimony from military leadership, and seen firsthand the challenges these complex threats pose to our primary mission of keeping our nation and citizens safe,” according to lawmakers.

Similar to Thornberry’s letter, the group ticked off a list of threats facing the U.S., including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Russia’s aggression toward Europe and China’s rising military might.

“It is clear that further reductions to national defense accounts are unacceptable and place too great a burden on our warfighters,” they argued.

“Seventy individual members have made it clear that a budget that fails to fully fund defense will not pass the House of Representatives,” Turner, who chairs the Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, said in a statement.

“The protection of our national defense and of the security of the American people must come first,” he added. “Every member who signed this letter was unwavering in their commitment to vote against a budget resolution that fails to fully fund national defense at or above the $561 billion identified by the president in his budget request.”