Key House Dem open to more defense spending

Key House Dem open to more defense spending
© Anne Wernikoff

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee says he's "open" to spending more than the administration's $609 billion request on defense.

"Six hundred and nine billion from the president makes a pretty solid starting point. I'm open to the idea that maybe we need a little more," Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (D-Wash.) said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" on Sunday. 

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Republican defense hawks in Congress have been pushing for a higher top line, after the administration unveiled its budget blueprint earlier this month. 

They say the $609 billion figure worked out in a two-year budget deal last year didn't take into account the ramped up U.S. effort to confront the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Russia and other threats. 

They argue the figure, which includes $59 billion for contingencies, was always meant to be a floor, not a ceiling.  

Smith disagreed, saying that the $609 billion was meant to be the upper limit, and that it was the exact number that Republicans agreed to, not the $15-20 billion more that they want. 

"It's not necessarily the amount of money you spend, it's how you spend it," he said. 

He called Republican statements that the $609 billion request is "woefully adequate" "over-the-top presidential election year rhetoric" and "partisan."  

Still, Smith said, "We need to have a discussion about where you're going to spend the money, what we're going to spend it on, and whether or not it makes sense to go a little bit above $609 [billion] -- it might."