Last week, the House engaged in a budget free-for-all, debating hundreds of amendments on the continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Republicans were set to impose draconian cuts on domestic programs—slashing to get to an arbitrary spending number rather than making decisions based on effectiveness of programs or need—while allowing the military budget to grow by $8 billion from last year’s spending levels. Through the amendment process, many members of Congress stepped up to attempt to right this imbalance, and I received reports from many of you that you called your representatives last week urging them to cut wasteful spending.
How did things shape up? While the House managed to make disastrous cuts to everything from Planned Parenthood to the Environmental Protection Agency, they fell short of making significant changes to the bloated military budget. One bright spot was the success of the Rooney (R-FL) amendment, which cut funding for the wasteful F-35 joint strike fighter alternate engine. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) lays out the case for why this funding is ludicrous:
A vote to cut this program failed late last year, so it is a sign of progress that Rooney was able to get a bipartisan showing for his amendment. Here are some of the other key amendments and how they fared in this budget showdown:
- Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) amendment that would have cut almost all of the funding for the war in Afghanistan, leaving $10 billion to fund a safe and orderly withdrawal, garnered support from 98 representatives. This is nearly as many as voted last year for Rep. Lee’s (D-CA) more general amendment that would have only allowed funding for withdrawal, without specifying an amount. While we’re disappointed that it couldn’t pass, it’s a strong stance to take and encouraging that so many members went on the record supporting it.
- Reps. Stark and Lee (D-CA) got a vote on their amendment that would have cut the military budget to Fiscal Year 2008 levels, bringing it in line with the budget rules Republicans have imposed on other departments. The amendment failed, 76-344. There is still an opportunity to build support for this idea by asking your representative to cosponsor Rep. Stark’s corresponding bill, H.R. 413.
- Rep. Woolsey’s (D-CA) amendment that would have prohibited funding for two wasteful weapons systems—the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the V-22 Osprey Aircraft—failed 91-339.
- Rep. Polis’ (D-CO) amendment that followed the recommendations of the Sustainable Defense Task Force by reducing troops in Europe to no more than 35,000 and cutting force structure by 7,500 over the next six months failed 74-351.
- Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D-OR) amendment that would have cut $24 million for the Selective Service, money used to register people for a draft that hasn’t been used in decades, got one of the higher vote counts (130-301), but not enough to get it through.
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) amendment that would have prohibited funding for missile defense failed by a voice vote (meaning there is no recorded roll call).
You can see how your representative voted on these and other amendments by searching his or her name here.
You can see the entire list of amendments voted on during the continuing resolution debate here.
While we have a good starting list of people who are willing to make the necessary cuts to the military budget, there is still work to do. Many Republicans hypocritically rail against the deficit while refusing to make cuts from the largest chunk of the discretionary budget. Democrats are often too afraid to be seen as weak on defense to take a strong stand for reining in the Pentagon. And people on both sides of the aisle often have interests in their home districts that keep them pushing for wasteful weapons programs that the Pentagon doesn’t even want.
Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the line. Republicans passed a continuing resolution that cuts $60 billion from the budget, a package that won’t fly in the Senate. The two sides will have to agree to a compromise version by March 4th, or face a possible government shutdown. Whatever comes of this 2011 budget conversation, we can also start pressuring members of Congress around the president’s recently released 2012 budget request, which slows the rate of military budget growth but doesn’t make real significant cuts.
There is a growing consensus that we need to reduce the military budget, and groups like the Sustainable Defense Task Force have recommendations for billions of dollars of cuts that won’t adversely affect US security. While it is still an uphill battle, the obsession with the deficit and funding gives us the best window we’ve had in years to move this conversation forward. We did see some bipartisan support on a number of the amendments voted on last week. The inspiring protests in Wisconsin show that people will not simply roll over and accept devastating attacks on their livelihoods and the programs they care about. Now we must organize to make sure we preserve those programs and make cuts to programs that are designed to destroy others’ communities rather than building communities here and abroad.
Categories: Pentagon spending