Small but important victories in the Defense Appropriations bill
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on the Pentagon’s bloated budget, which comes in at more than $50 billion above the caps required by sequestration.
The bill was held up for a long time because the Republican leadership did not want to take on some controversial issues being pushed by members of their own party—NSA spying, intervention in Syria and Egypt. Because of these debates, the leadership abandoned the tradition of having an open process for amendments and limited the number that could come to the floor for a vote.
After all that drama, there were some positive developments, as well as some votes that show we still have work to do.
- In a bipartisan victory, the House narrowly approved an amendment to cut $3.5 billion that had been added to the war budget, leaving some extra funding for the National Guard. The Republican leadership was so threatened by this vote that they tried to hold a revote and flip some Republicans, but they were unsuccessful. Passed, 215-206.
- They also approved several amendments to make reductions to the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, a program plagued by cost overruns and incomplete projects that reveals some of the problems with the military carrying out development projects.
- The House approved an amendment to cut funds to buy helicopters for the Afghan National Security Forces manufactured by a Russian arms dealer that is supplying the Syrian government with weapons. Passed, 346-79.
- One hundred eighty-five representatives voted for an amendment to defund the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which authorized the invasion of Afghanistan but has been used to justify targeted killings around the world. While it didn’t pass, it’s significant that it gained so much support on both sides of the aisle on the first time it came up for a vote. This lays the groundwork to build support for sunsetting the AUMF. Failed, 185-236.
The not so good:
- The House continued to cling to the unproven, unnecessary and expensive East Coast missile defense program, which the Pentagon doesn’t even want, voting down an amendment to cut the funding. Failed, 173-249.
- Far too many people resisted the idea of scaling back the Ohio class submarine, one of many delivery systems for nuclear weapons that is eating up billions of tax dollars. Failed, 49-372.
- There was also an attempt to make a reasonable reduction in the number of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles to three hundred. Failed, 142-283.
- The House voted down an amendment to cut a modest 1% from the Pentagon budget, excluding health care and personnel accounts. Failed, 109-317.
- There were also some unhelpful amendments approved by voice vote (so we don’t have a list of how each member voted). These include preventing funding for environmental impact statements of ICBMs and prohibiting funding for nuclear weapons reductions.