By Rebecca Griffin
Last week, the House of Representatives took a small but important step toward reining in Pentagon spending. Thank you to all of you who responded to our call to tell your representative to support amendments to cut the military budget and end the war in Afghanistan.
Our victory last week came with the vote on the bipartisan amendment offered by Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA). The amendment cuts $1.1 billion from the 2013 Pentagon budget, effectively freezing the military budget at this year’s levels. While we would rather see much bigger cuts, it’s a huge success to get bipartisan support for reining in Pentagon spending, especially in the face of an onslaught of pressure from congressional hawks and weapons lobbyists. As our friends at the Project on Government Oversight said in a press release highlighting a letter we signed supporting the amendment, “The message from the right, left and all points in between was clear: It’s time to end runaway Pentagon spending.” Click here to see how your representative voted.
Here are some other high (and low) lights from the votes last week:
Overall Military Spending
There were attempts to take bigger chunks out of the Pentagon budget. Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment to cut the base budget by $7.6 billion. This would have brought the budget in line with the caps that Congress passed in the Budget Control Act last year. Rejected, 171-243.
Rep. Barbara Lee offered another amendment to cut $19.2 billion, bringing the base budget down to a round (and still huge) $500 billion. Rejected, 87-326.
Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-CO) amendment would have prohibited funding for deployment of two permanent brigades in Europe, part of an effort to reduce our overly large military presence there. A similar amendment passed with the National Defense Authorization Act. Rejected, 123-292.
Ending the War in Afghanistan
President Obama has said repeatedly that he will continue withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at a “steady pace” after the withdrawal of surge troops this fall. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) offered an amendment to bring the budget in line with those plans, cutting $12.6 billion from the war budget to reflect a continued drawdown. Rejected, 137-278.
Rep. Barbara Lee offered another version of her amendment to limit funding to a safe and responsible military withdrawal. The amendment would have cut $21 billion from the war budget.Rejected, 107-312.
The Cold War nuclear fanatics were out in full force in the debate on the military budget. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), leader of the pack, offered an amendment to prohibit funding to reduce the US nuclear arsenal in conjunction with the Obama administration’s nuclear policy review. Approved, 235-178.
Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND) brought up an amendment prohibiting funding to prohibit use of funds to reduce the number of a variety of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. Approved, 238-162.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) brought up an amendment to prohibit the use of funding for sharing classified information about missile defense systems with Russia. This stems from the right wing paranoia about President Obama’s “hot mic moment” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Approved by voice vote.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a leading advocate for ending our outdated nuclear weapons policies, put forward an amendment to cut $75 million for ground-based missile defense, bringing the amount back down to the president’s request. Rejected, 150-268.
Rep. Markey offered another amendment to limit the fleet of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles to 300 (down from the current 450). Rejected, 126-283.
While we got an important bipartisan victory this time around, we also saw far too much bipartisan fealty to the Pentagon and defense companies. A new poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly support bigger cuts to the military budget. We will keep pushing, and the debate over looming cuts to the Pentagon budget will provide us another opportunity to get that message across. Φ
Rebecca Griffin tracks the pulse of Capitol Hill, as well as the perspective of regular Americans on America’s top foreign policy challenges. She travels the western states and Washington, DC, organizing communities and bringing their message to policymakers. She has directed campaigns to shift to a nonmilitary strategy in Afghanistan, end the war in Iraq, fund and reform civilian engagement through diplomacy and development, and promote diplomacy with Iran.