The Senate on Thursday voted down a Republican proposal that would have required increasing defense spending to match every dollar added to non-defense spending.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, had offered the parity rule as an amendment to a new bill being considered to bolster technology efforts to stay ahead of China.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

The amendment failed by a 44-53 vote with three Republicans, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), joining Democrats in voting against the measure.

“The best deterrent to Chinese ambition and aggression is a strong and feared American military. Providing the funding increases our military needs to counter this growing threat must be our highest priority. Instead, President Biden’s budget proposes cutting defense while increasing non-defense spending by nearly 20 percent. His priorities are out of order — a strong military underpins everything else we do to push back on China,” Inhofe and Shelby wrote in a joint statement detailing their amendment.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, on Wednesday criticized the rule and said it would “lead to absurd results.” 

“Under this amendment, if we pass an infrastructure bill through reconciliation providing $2 trillion dollars to fix our roads and bridges and build out broadband, we would then have to provide $2 trillion dollars for defense, nearly tripling the defense budget – unless we had sixty votes to pass it without the defense dollars,” Leahy wrote in a statement. “We can have a debate about the appropriate levels for defense and non-defense spending in Fiscal Year 2022, but we should not do it by creating arbitrary rules and we should not do it on this bill.”

The Senate also rejected a separate amendment to the bill, by a vote of 46-48, that would have blocked the cancellation of contracts for border security measures for which funds have already been obligated.