Budget/Appropriations

GOP senators accuse Democrats of prioritizing social spending over military

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) leaves a meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blasted Democratic leadership for their decision not to push ahead the annual defense authorization bill and bring it to the floor for a vote, calling the move a “dereliction of duty.”

The GOP lawmakers accused Democrats of focusing too much on President Biden’s domestic agenda instead of helping the military with the nearly $780 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“When asked the question, ‘Why are we not getting floor time?’ There’s not an answer,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), said during a GOP press conference.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who controls the agenda, “won’t bring up the NDAA” to the floor, alleging that “the military in this White House and this Congress is simply not prioritized.”

The must-pass NDAA, which would fund the Defense Department and some programs in the Energy Department for 2022, is typically considered and passed on a bipartisan basis.

This year’s bill includes language allowing for an annual military pay raise, funding for programs and equipment to deter Russia and China and major changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice dealing with sexual assault and harassment.

The House passed its version of the NDAA in September, but a version the Senate Armed Services Committee passed in July has been awaiting a full chamber vote since then.

Once both versions are passed, House and Senate lawmakers would go to conference to settle differences ahead of a final vote in both chambers, but the process can’t move forward with the Senate’s delay.

Schumer has not announced his plans for the bill.

The senators at the press conference said they had not been told why Schumer has not brought the legislation to a vote. 

Inhofe said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.), has pressed Schumer about getting a vote “on a daily basis” but “did not come back with a reason that this postponement has taken place.”

The Hill has reached out to Schumer’s office for comment. 

The GOP senators pointed to the delay as proof that the military is low on the list of priorities for Democratic leaders.

The Senate has been preoccupied with two major bills the White House hopes will be passed, including a $1.75 trillion “human infrastructure” package and a more traditional roads and bridges bill that has bipartisan support. 

Democrats hope to finalize the bills in the next several weeks.

Sen. John Thune (R-N.D.), said Democrats “have been so preoccupied with passing their reckless tax-and-spending spree that they have overlooked and ignored some of the basic responsibilities of governing.”

Time is also running out in 2021, with only four weeks left of legislative work on the congressional calendar.

“The bottom line is we’re running out of time,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), “And I just don’t mean we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and we haven’t done the NDAA. I mean we’re also running out of time to continue to be the superpower of the world.”

Tags Build Back Better agenda Chuck Schumer Dan Sullivan Jack Reed Joe Biden John Thune Kevin Cramer military budget National Defense Authorization Act Sexual harassment in the military social spending package

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