Senate panel adds $25B to Biden’s defense budget
The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a $778 billion defense policy bill, adding nearly $25 billion more to the defense budget than the Biden administration requested.
The funding boost would go entirely to the Pentagon, giving the department $740.3 billion compared to the Biden administration’s request for $715 billion.
The remainder of the budget goes to non-Pentagon defense programs, such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.
The increase was approved as a Republican-proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that received bipartisan support when the committee met behind closed doors to consider the bill Wednesday night.
“I’m proud the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee could come together to put service members first and support my amendment to sufficiently increase defense spending in the National Defense Authorization Act,” committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement Thursday. “While no bill has everything I want, I am proud to support this bill because it provides the appropriate increase in funding our needs.”
Overall, the NDAA cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee in a 23-3 vote, the panel said Thursday.
Republicans had been complaining for months that President Biden’s defense budget request was inadequate in the face of threats from China and Russia.
Biden’s $753 billion defense budget represented a slight bump from the Trump administration’s last defense budget of $740 billion.
But Republicans argued that when accounting for inflation, the proposal would actually be a cut compared to last year. Instead, they have been pushing for a 3 to 5 percent increase above inflation.
With the Senate Armed Services Committee evenly split between the parties, Republicans needed just one Democrat to side with them to approve the funding boost.
And with the Senate split 50-50, Democrats are also likely to need Republicans to pass the defense bill, which progressives routinely oppose.
The NDAA is a policy bill, not a spending bill, meaning even if the final product has a topline of $778 billion, a separate appropriations bill with a matching dollar figure would also have to pass for the increase to become a reality.
Still, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s move complicates congressional talks over the defense budget and is sure to infuriate progressive Democrats, who have been pushing for a 10 percent cut to the defense budget.
The House Appropriations Committee earlier this month advanced a Pentagon spending bill that matches Biden’s request.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has similarly said he thinks Biden’s budget request is sufficient.
“No matter how large the budget, there’s always this list of unfunded requirements,” Smith said at a hearing last month. “And it strikes me as simply a forcing mechanism to, no matter what, force more money into the system.”