April 15, 2024

The latest appropriations bill for the Department of Defense has died on a procedural vote in the House of Representatives.

A procedural vote to advance the House GOP’s defense spending bill failed 212-214 on the chamber floor on Tuesday after Republican lawmakers butted heads over how to avoid a government shutdown. The result is a blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy given that the party in power traditionally does as ordered on a “rule” vote that sets the terms for putting the bill on the floor.

Five Republicans voted with Democrats to kill the move, known as a rules vote. This is the second time it’s happened during McCarthy’s tenure – the last time a rules vote failed before that was November 2002. The five Republicans who voted against the rule are Reps. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Dan Bishop, R-N.C., and Ken Buck, R-Colo.

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The failure of this bill is due to the ongoing debate over a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of September. Freedom Caucus Republicans are opposed to the CR, claiming it is a continuation of Biden administration spending policies, while Democrats are opposed to the border security measures.

A frustrated McCarthy told reporters after the failed procedural vote that the measure tanking makes it “harder” to pass a CR.

“Ask those five why they voted against it.  Think about what they’re voting against. They’re voting against even bringing the bill up to have a discussion about it to vote on. If you’re opposed to the bill, vote against the bill at the end…You could change it if you don’t like it. But the idea that you vote against a rule, to even bring it up, that makes no sense to me,” McCarthy said.

Lawmakers were seen entering and exiting House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office through the day to hash out their disagreements in a meeting that one member described as “passionate.”

In effect, the defense bill is being held hostage to negotiations over the continuing resolution. But Congress is missing the real problem here, which is – as it has been for a few decades now – reckless and excessive spending.

While the squabbling over the CR and the defense bill continues, it’s illustrative to look at some of the things Congress wants to spend money on in that defense appropriation. From the “Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, 2024,” published June 27, 2023, viewable in its entirety here, we can find these tidbits:

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CLIMATE CHANGE
The Committee recommendation includes a reduction of $714,840,000 for unjustified requests that seek to mitigate climate risk but do not improve combat capability or capacity. The Committee is dismayed that the budget request mischaracterizes requirements such as routine infrastructure and utilities upgrades, long-standing statutory compliance activities, combatant commander theater-setting efforts, and multilateral cold weather exercises as mitigating climate risk. This is a disingenuous practice that serves the Administration’s prerogative at the expense of clarity in the Department’s request and the Committee’s ability to perform oversight.

Once in a while, one sees some sort of good news. It’s encouraging that the House is pushing back some; what’s less encouraging is that Congress is reducing spending on this rather than zeroing it right out.

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
The Committee is concerned that Department of Defense programs operating under the auspices of diversity, equity, and inclusion serve to divide the military along racial, ethnic, or gender lines rather than unite servicemembers to provide for the common defense. Therefore, the Committee recommendation includes a reduction of $114,700,000 from the request for such activities. Further, the Committee is concerned by the propagation of the Department’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategic Plan. The Committee continues its longstanding and bipartisan support of disability rights and is concerned that grouping accessibility with these divisive concepts may negatively impact people with disabilities, including disabled military veterans.

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If these programs “serve to divide the military along racial, ethnic or gender lines,” then why is one penny of taxpayer money going to this at all?

The whole thing is symptomatic of a much larger problem. Squabbling over rules of parliamentary procedure while items like this slip through in a budget is the very definition of fiddling while Rome burns. In June of 1945, the U.S. military had fewer than ten general and flag officers of four-star rank. At last count, the U.S. military now has forty-four four-star generals and admirals. That’s a hideous waste of money. While maintaining a strong, effective defense is, in fact, one of the few legitimate purposes of the federal government, there is plenty of deadwood that could be cut out even as we undertake a necessary revamping of the military to get rid of things like “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” and once more emphasize how to “close with and destroy the enemy by fire, maneuver and shock effect.”

Continuing resolutions be damned. Shut the government down if that’s what it takes. Make some serious changes. Cut spending. We, as a nation, are broke. It’s well past time to change our spendthrift practices.

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