Lead Republican lawmakers in the Senate on Wednesday renewed their push for a higher defense topline as the chamber kicked off its fiscal year 2022 appropriations process, to include calling for parity with non-defense funding increases.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top GOP member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, each said any progress on reaching a full FY ’22 spending deal will stall out if the Pentagon does not receive a boost to the requested budget topline of $715 billion.
“Here’s what it will take to get a Senate appropriations process back on track. Two simple things. Number one, Democrats will need to honor the long-standing bipartisan truce that provides parity for defense and non-defense spending growth…and at a responsible overall [topline] number that we can all accept,” McConnell said during floor remarks on Wednesday. “And number two, we must have agreement that we’re going to keep long-standing bipartisan policy riders in and new poison pill riders out.”
McConnell added that he doesn’t see the Senate moving forward on a defense budget that “cuts our national defense after inflation and allows adversaries to get an edge.”
Those remarks echo comments from Republican House appropriators who have called the White House’s defense spending request “effectively a cut” from current spending levels when factoring for inflation, urging lawmakers to go after a topline that achieves three to five percent budget growth (Defense Daily, July 13).
Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee did approve increasing the Pentagon’s FY ‘22 topline by $25 billion up to nearly $740 billion with bipartisan support (Defense Daily, July 22).
The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) began marking up three spending FY ‘22 bills on Wednesday, but has yet to schedule one for its defense bill.
“Our concerns about the path ahead are real, and they are fueled by the Biden Administration’s determination to recklessly tax and spend on the domestic side while neglecting critical investments in our national security,” Shelby said during SAC’s markup. “With an agreement on topline spending levels; parity between the rates of increase for defense and non-defense spending; an assurance that defense spending will not fall by the wayside; and a commitment to avoid partisan stumbling blocks, I am confident we can continue to work together.”