Senate panel votes to boost Pentagon budget by $25 billion more than Biden’s proposal
WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to increase the Defense Department’s budget by $25 billion more than the Biden administration’s $715 billion proposal for the Pentagon, a member of the committee announced Thursday.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., welcomed the budget increase as “very positive” on a call with reporters. He did not detail which specific priorities will be funded with the additional money, however, he said $2 billion will go to shipbuilding and ship repair.
Military housing also “remains a problem,” Kaine said, and the committee continued to “move forward” on the issue during their discussions, though it is unclear Thursday how much in funding will go to improving the living conditions on bases.
The full Senate will likely take up the National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that sets priorities and funding for the Pentagon, in September, Kaine said.
The defense bill authorizes funding, while the House and Senate Appropriations Committees allocate the funding. Those committees must agree to a higher overall budget amount for the money to be available.
“Congress must work on a bipartisan basis to ensure we have the policies and resources to deter America’s adversaries, reassure our allies, and ensure our forces have the right tools and capabilities to combat threats around the globe. Advancing this bill is a significant step toward achieving that objective,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the committee’s chairman, said in a statement after Kaine announced the budget increase.
The beefed-up budget from Senate Armed Services Committee is likely to set up a clash with House Democrats who have backed President Joe Biden’s spending proposal, which was released in early April. The administration set the overall proposed defense budget, which includes money for the Department of Energy and its nuclear weapons program, at $753 billion.
Some Republicans have argued for months at congressional hearings and recent news conferences that Biden’s budget is insufficient to counter the rising threat of China and Russia. They have repeatedly called for a 3-5% increase in funding and criticized Biden for his effectively flat budget.
On the other hand, advocates and some liberal lawmakers have sought to curb defense spending, which has steadily risen during the last decade. They called for funds to address more urgent needs such as the coronavirus pandemic and other public health concerns.
The Senate committee wrapped up its debate on the defense legislation and approved the bill on Wednesday night with a 23-3 vote.
The Senate and House Armed Services Committees must reach an agreement on a final version of the bill, which is expected to happen sometime later this fall. Some senators have estimated that could take until December.
“While I don’t support every provision in the bill, one of the reasons the NDAA gets done year after year is because we work together, find common ground and compromise...I hope we see this bill on the Senate floor soon, where we can continue improving it through an open and robust amendment process,” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the committee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement issued Thursday.