By Rebekah Johansen
Yesterday, House Appropriations Committee members battled for hours over sequestration cuts to upcoming Pentagon spending. Democratic members criticized the bill for what they called “ignoring” FY2014′s roughly $50 billion of sequestration cuts set to take effect in the fall. Others critiqued its cuts to domestic spending to offset Pentagon spending. Ranking Member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. classified it as “good” only “if considered on its own merits.” Several House Democrats even said that the GOP-crafted appropriations bill “breaks the law.”
And then they helped pass it.
Representing nearly $513 billion, the bill passed easily, with most Democratic members voting in favor despite harsh debates earlier, as John T. Bennett reports for DefenseNews.com
Congress and partisan fighting are almost innately connected. So much of what happens in our nation’s capital comes down to these fights — right against left, conservative against liberal. Congress, we are told, is in a gridlock. Congress cannot accomplish anything. And so on. Often, though, events come along that remind us that when Congress does choose to work together, the results should concern us just as much as the gridlock, if not more so.
This bill is not altogether a step in the wrong direction. For one, according to House Appropriation Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky, the legislation proposes “a decrease of more than $5 billion below last year’s enacted level.” For another, there is apparently at least some effort at offset included. The bill shows signs that members are beginning to recognize the gravity of the fiscal situation and seek some new directions
However, the measure still includes the unfortunate habit of giving the Pentagon more funding than it actually requests. Although yesterday’s measure was $3.4 billion smaller than the Pentagon’s 2014 base budget request, it also included $85.8 billion in a war-funding section that totaled $1.5 billion more than the Pentagon sought. It was also about $28.1 billion above the sequester level. Willingness to consider offsets is a clear step in the right direction, but offsets should not be limited to domestic programs.
This measure included some things worth celebrating and some areas of concern, but at the end of the day, yesterday was just another in a long train of examples of the almost reverent deference given to Pentagon spending, regardless of circumstances. Our national debt continues to soar to ever-more absurd proportions, and Pentagon spending continues to make up a sizable portion of the spending at the core of the problem. This habit of excluding Pentagon spending from any scrutiny is a dangerous one, and now more than ever, it should be changed.