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House panel backs $24B Pentagon budget boost, defying Biden – POLITICO

Fourteen Democrats broke ranks to push the GOP budget proposal over the finish line.

Several Democrats who served in the military or represent military-heavy districts threw their support behind the amendment, including former Navy officer Elaine Luria (D-Va.), former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Army veteran Anthony Brown (D-Md.). Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who represents a district in Connecticut that builds submarines, also supported the increase.

The bipartisan vote is yet another blow for Biden’s $715 billion Pentagon spending plan, which essentially holds military spending flat. Republicans have assailed the Biden budget for months for not keeping up with the pace of inflation and not adequately funding the military to take on threats posed by China and Russia.

The House and Senate Appropriations panels must still sign off on any increase for the Pentagon to actually receive more money. But bipartisan momentum is now building toward a big budget hike on both sides of the Capitol.

“The bipartisan adoption of my amendment sends a clear signal: the President’s budget submission was wholly inadequate to keep pace with a rising China and a re-emerging Russia,” Rogers said in a statement. “I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration.”

Wednesday’s House action follows a blowout bipartisan vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee to boost its version of the defense bill by $25 billion. Only one Democrat on the committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), opposed that proposal.

Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.), had signaled the committee may support a larger Pentagon budget, but opposed the amendment to increase spending beyond his version of the bill, which was $716 billion. He criticized the proposal as “simply throwing more money at the problem.”

“The president’s budget had the exact right number to get to the right results,” Smith argued.

The increase was panned by progressive lawmakers and groups, who contend that the Pentagon is already adequately funded. Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, defense spending critics have argued for steep cuts to the Pentagon and to redirect the money toward initiatives such as combating climate change and global vaccination efforts.

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna of California urged fellow Democrats not to “succumb” to a GOP-led budget maneuver, arguing the party would waste its political capital by agreeing to the increase.

“If we don’t stand up now to make sure that we are not increasing the defense budget … what good is it to control both chambers and the presidency?” Khanna asked.

Rogers’ amendment would dole out billions to address unfunded requirements of the military services and combatant commanders, and would incorporate approximately 200 lawmaker requests that weren’t in the original bill.

The amendment would increase weapons procurement accounts by $9.8 billion.

That includes a $4.7 billion to shipbuilding, including money to procure an extra Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, a fleet oiler and an expeditionary fast transport. The amendment also would authorize money to expand the Navy’s attack submarine procurement to three boats per year.

The measure also includes funding to keep three cruisers in service that the Navy sought to retire.

The amendment also provides an extra $1.7 billion for aircraft purchases, including four more KC-130J aerial tankers for the Navy and Marines, two more P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes for the Navy and nine more UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard.

Rogers’ amendment also authorizes an extra $5.2 billion for research and development programs. It would boost operations and maintenance accounts by $3 billion and authorizes an extra $3.8 billion for defense infrastructure projects.

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