Security policy expert: Defense industry donations let lawmakers 'ignore public opinion'

Stephen Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute, said in a Hill.TV interview on Monday that donations from the defense industry essentially give lawmakers "permission" to "ignore public opinion."

Appearing on Hill.TV's "Rising," Semler discussed his recent report for the Sludge that found Democratic House lawmakers who voted against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSchumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Toomey takes aim at Schumer's spending windfall for NYC public housing The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE's (D-N.Y.) amendment to reduce the defense budget received on average 3.7 times more in cash from the defense industry.

"Rising" co-host Ryan Grim asked Semler if this was a case of the defense industry buying votes or if the lawmakers were being rewarded for voting in ways that benefit the defense sector.

"Probably a combination of both," Semler responded. "The way I look at it is that because public opinion supports these sort of cuts, what this cash does is it gives permission to members to ignore public opinion. It allows them a bit more flex because they know that the campaign cash will still come, you know, flowing in."

Semler noted that many voters are concerned about how defense spending will add to the national deficit, but said there are "no true deficit dogmatists" in Congress. He pointed to how Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (D-W.Va.) is willing to hold up the $3.5 trillion spending bill, but has voted for defense budgets over the past five years that collectively exceeded $3.5 trillion.

Watch part of Semler's interview above.