At the end of last week, President Joe Biden unveiled a $715 billion defense budget proposal, up from $704 billion from last year but less than the $722 billion that then-President Donald Trump asked for at the end of last year.
The proposal garnered differing responses from two key members of the Florida delegation on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sits on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He teamed up with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., to release a joint statement on Friday.
“President Biden recently said, ‘If we don’t get moving, [China] is going to eat our lunch.’ Today’s budget proposal signals to China that they should set the table. While President Biden has prioritized spending trillions on liberal wish list priorities here at home, funding for America’s military is neglected,” the senators said. “China aspires to overtake America as the world’s dominant superpower. Over the past decade, China’s defense spending has increased by $200 billion, while America’s has decreased by $400 billion. China’s military investments match its desire to out-compete America and hold our military forces at risk. President Biden’s defense spending cut doesn’t even keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the non-defense discretionary budget increases by almost 20 percent in this budget on top of the trillions of dollars in new non-national security programs the administration is intent on spending this year. If President Biden’s support for America’s military matched his zeal for spending at home, China would get nowhere close to overtaking us.
“President Biden’s budget proposal cuts defense spending, sending a terrible signal not only to our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow, but also to our allies and partners. Cutting America’s defense budget completely undermines Washington Democrats’ tough talk on China and calls into question the administration’s willingness to confront the Chinese Communist Party,” the senators continued. “President Biden’s own Pentagon leadership team acknowledges that the defense strategy they inherited is largely on the right track, and that resourcing the strategy requires significant real growth in the defense budget. Anything less than real growth will force the Department to choose between taking care of service members and ensuring they have the tools and training to meet new and growing threats. We ask our Armed Forces not only to counter threats from the PRC, but also from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and radical Islamic terrorists. We need to give them the resources they need.
“Long-term strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party will require coherent strategies, creative thinking, and sustained investments in all our national security tools: military, diplomatic, economic, technological, informational, intelligence, and more. We’re ready to work through regular order to develop additional bipartisan legislation to address China. But that process can’t work if the administration insists on budget cuts for the most important tool in our toolbox. U.S. military power enhances all our other tools and represents the best deterrent against near-term threats posed by Xi’s People’s Liberation Army. It is not tough talk alone that will get Beijing’s attention, but American defense spending and combat-credible American forces in theater,” the senators added.
“Talk is cheap, but defending our country is not. We can’t afford to fail in our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense. To keep America strong, we must balance domestic and defense spending priorities. President Biden has said much about reaching across the aisle. Both parties should be able to agree that we must maintain America’s edge over China. We urge President Biden to work with us in a bipartisan manner to ensure that,” they said in conclusion.
Over in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who chairs the U.S. House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, defended the proposal, including Biden’s efforts to include climate change under the defense umbrella as a national security threat.
“President Biden signaled today that he prioritizes working families, veterans and America’s most vulnerable. The fiscal year 2022 discretionary funding proposal properly focuses on helping struggling schools, providing affordable childcare and making robust public health investments, including an unprecedented push for more advanced research on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other devastating diseases,” Wasserman Schultz said.
I am pleased that it seriously confronts climate change, and prioritizes neglected problems like gun safety, civil rights and gender-based violence. Many priorities highlight my own as chair of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, namely his calls for increases in VA medical care funding, boosts in suicide prevention, and measures to aggressively address racial, gender and other historic disparities in health and environmental outcomes. This blueprint reflects our needs and values, and I’m eager to work with the new Administration to enact our shared goal of focusing government on benefiting America’s well-being, and not just its most well-off,” she added.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.