'Prioritizing the Pentagon over the people': House approves dizzying $782 billion in military spending

'Prioritizing the Pentagon over the people': House approves dizzying $782 billion in military spending
Frontpage news and politics

The House of Representatives late Wednesday approved a $1.5 trillion government spending package that includes $782 billion in U.S. military funding, the largest portion of the must-pass omnibus legislation.

"Military, weapons, and detention contractors are the biggest winners in this budget," the National Priorities Project (NPP) at the Institute for Policy Studies said in a statement. "In recent years, more than half of all military spending has gone to for-profit, private contractors. The new spending bill promises to continue this windfall, providing for even more expensive weapons system than the Pentagon requested, and promising to continue lucrative contracts for immigrant detention and surveillance."

The House voted on the massive omnibus in two tranches: One focused on military-related spending and the other on non-military funds. A number of House progressives, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), voted no on the former and yes on the latter.

The votes came after a long day of jostling behind the scenes as rank-and-file Democrats expressed outrage over how $15 billion in coronavirus aid was funded in the bipartisan measure: Namely, by repurposing money set aside for states in an earlier relief package.

That funding scheme, pushed by Republicans, angered Democrats whose states would see federal funds that were committed to healthcare, education, and other priorities yanked away. Ultimately, the House Democratic leadership opted to completely pull the Covid-19 relief spending from the omnibus on Wednesday afternoon, vowing to advance the aid package in the near future.

"Instead of redistributing money from the astronomical, record-breaking $782 billion Pentagon budget, the House decided to cut all Covid relief from the latest spending package," the peace group CodePink lamented in a Twitter post late Wednesday. "This is the definition of prioritizing the Pentagon (militarism and war) over the people."

After the removal of coronavirus funding, the chamber was still left with a sprawling government funding package that increases federal non-defense spending by nearly 7% to $730 billion and hikes military spending by 6%.

The $782 billion in U.S. military funding included in the omnibus—which the Senate must pass by midnight Friday to avert a government shutdown—is $29 billion more than President Joe Biden originally requested and a $42 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2021 level.

While the measure contains nearly $14 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine—including $3.5 billion for military equipment as the country fights Russia's invasion—NPP noted Wednesday that "the vast majority of military spending in this bill is not about Ukraine."

"The $6.5 billion in this bill for Department of Defense funding to counter the Ukraine invasion represents less than one percent of military spending in the bill," NPP said. "Our longstanding patterns of spending on war have failed to prevent a disastrous war in Europe, while enriching corporate profiteers. And yet conservatives in Congress have insisted on a dollar-for-dollar match in any funding increases between domestic and military spending, leaving real needs unfunded."

"Over the last two years, congressional opposition to unlimited Pentagon budgets and abusive immigrant detention practices has grown," NPP added. "But this deal is a sign that there is still a long way to go before our funding priorities match our needs."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen and co-chair of the Clean Budget Coalition, applauded the House for passing legislation that would substantially increase non-defense funding levels but added, "It is extremely unfortunate to see continued increases in unnecessary military spending, insufficient funding to keep up the fight against the pandemic, and so many legacy poison pill policy riders reinserted into the final deal."

"The damaging dynamic on Capitol Hill that accepts ballooning defense spending as the price to be paid for any modest increase in non-defense spending creates an endless stream of funding for the military-industrial complex while leaving everyday Americans struggling to meet their daily needs," said Gilbert. "The huge, undiscerning sum of money funneled to the Pentagon in this package is a distinct loss for the American people."

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