House Hikes Pentagon Budget, Rejects Most Pro-Peace Amendments

Peace Advocate September-October 2021

Pentagon Budget - Stephen Semler
Pentagon Budget - Stephen Semler

by Cole Harrison

Militarism tightened its icy, bipartisan grip on Washington, as the House of Representatives Sept. 23 voted for a $778 billion Pentagon budget — $38 billion higher than Trump’s final budget, and $24 billion higher than the amount requested by President Biden.

Cut the Pentagon Budget by 10%

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2022, or military policy bill, passed by a 316-113 vote.  In Massachusetts, Reps. McGovern, Clark, Auchincloss, and Pressley voted no on the bill, while Reps. Neal, Trahan, Moulton, Lynch, and Keating supported it.

Two amendments to trim the budget by 10%, or $78 billion, and to trim the extra $24 billion, failed by 86-332 and 142-286; on these amendments, McGovern, Clark, Auchincloss and Pressley were joined by Rep. Trahan.  Nine Democrats switched from supporting the 10% reduction last year to opposing it this year, including Keating, Lynch, and Neal.

We need to prioritize spending on actions designed to address our real security threats: catastrophic climate change, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing racial injustice. Continuing to increase the Pentagon budget does not make us safe.

Ro Khanna’s (D-CA) amendment to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war passed by 219-207, with all Massachusetts representatives except Moulton and Lynch voting yes.

An amendment to withdraw US troops from Syria failed by 141-286; it was supported by all Massachusetts representatives except Lynch.

Rep. Hank Johnson’s amendment to put severe limits on the 1033 program, which transfers surplus military equipment to civilian police departments and helps turn them into an occupying army, failed by 198-231, with all Massachusetts representatives voting yes.   Rep. Pressley had filed her own amendment to put a moratorium on the program, but the Rules Committee did not grant it a vote.

An amendment to stop building the new ICBM, called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent or GBSD, failed by 118-299, with only McGovern, Auchincloss, Clark, and Pressley in support.

Massachusetts NDAA Votes Grid 2021-09
Massachusetts House NDAA Votes Sept 2021

In a separate bill passed the same day, the House also approved $1 billion to supply additional Raytheon Iron Dome missiles to Israel.   Two days earlier, progressives including Rep. Pressley had forced Democratic leadership to strike the Iron Dome funding from the continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government; that temporary victory forced leadership to put up the Israel funding for a separate vote.   After an acrimonious debate on the floor, Rep. Pressley was one of only nine House members to vote against the bill.   Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) separate NDAA amendment, which would have stopped a $735 sale of munitions to Israel, was killed by Rep. McGovern’s Rules Committee.

The most pro-peace member of the Massachusetts delegation, Rep. Pressley, voted as we requested on all these issues, and Reps. McGovern, Clark, and Auchincloss did so on all but Iron Dome.     Rep. Trahan joined this contingent for the 10% Pentagon cut.  Reps. Neal and Keating joined those five for the Yemen vote, and Rep. Moulton joined them on Syria.  Rep. Lynch, the most pro-war delegation member, voted against our positions on all but the 1033 issue.   689 people used our action page to send a message to their Representatives about these issues.

The 142 votes to trim $24 billion and return it to the President’s requested number is the largest number of votes for a significant Pentagon budget cut in many years; the pro-peace forces are growing, even though in general we continue to lose most of the votes.   Pentagon contracts spread over every Congressional district and military-industrial complex lobbying, the anti-China mood that has swept the nation in the past few years, and disillusionment after the sudden collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, further strengthened the coalition of fear.

Stephen Semler pointed out the impact of military-industrial complex money.  The 77 Democrats who opposed the 3% cut have received, on average, $52,211 from the defense sector since January 2019, while the 142 Democrats who supported it have received an average of $35,898

Domestic and Pentagon spending issues are still largely discussed separately in Washington.   Only when the likes of climate groups, teachers’ and nurses’ groups, and racial and economic justice campaigns,  join with peace groups in working to cut the Pentagon, will we have a chance to free up the gigantic funds involved to address social and economic justice and the climate emergency.

Contact your Members of Congress and demand they take action to cut the Pentagon budget.