Veterans’ Affairs chairman a ‘no’ vote on defense bill

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday voted against moving forward on the 2015 defense policy bill, saying he had concerns about the Pentagon’s “bloated” budget.

{mosads}“I am voting no because I have very serious concerns about our nation’s bloated military budget and the misplaced national priorities this bill reflects,” he said in a statement.

The Senate on Thursday voted to advance the $585 billion bill, which authorizes the Pentagon’s programs and spending. Sanders was one of 14 senators to vote “no.”

“At a time when our national debt is more than $18 trillion and we spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue to end the waste and financial mismanagement that have plagued the Pentagon for years,” Sanders said.

The bill authorizes $521 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, and $64 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO), also known as war funding. Fiscal conservative groups have called the OCO account a Pentagon “slush fund.”

The House voted to pass the bill earlier this week, but there has been some pushback on the bill in the Senate due to its inclusion of provisions on federal land, which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has called a “land grab.”

Sanders said the Pentagon’s fiscal situation “is so absurd that the military is unable to even account for how it spends all of its money,” he said. The Pentagon has set a goal to be ready for an audit by 2017.

Sanders said he supported a “strong defense system” for the U.S., and a “robust National Guard and Reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges.”

“At a time when the country is struggling with huge unmet needs, however, it is unacceptable that the Defense Department continues to waste massive amounts of money,” Sanders said. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Ted Cruz
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