Sens. Jim Inhofe and Richard Shelby are demanding that half of all new spending go to the Defense budget.
As the Senate considers a bipartisan proposal to support technological innovation, Republicans are upset that the bill doesn't also include a major increase in military funding.
So Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are proposing to amend the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 to require that all money allocated outside the Defense Department be matched by an equal amount of money for defense.
Citing an agreement 10 years ago between himself and Shelby as chairs of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, according to which "we agreed on parity, that anything we do is going to be defense-related, and it's going to be equaled by non-defense," Inhofe complained in a floor speech Wednesday, "The way it's structured now in this bill — there's nothing in there for defense."
"We're in the most threatened position we've ever been in with China, and there's a China bill doing all these things with China, but it's not doing anything in terms of the military that we are suffering under right now," he argued. "Now, this has to be our top priority. Our security underwrites everything else we do as a nation."
Co-sponsors listed on the amendment are Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Tom Cotton (AR), Joni Ernst (IA), Thom Tillis (NC), and Mike Rounds (SD).
The $53 billion bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with 13 co-sponsors, among them Republicans Roy Blunt (MO), Susan Collins (ME), Steve Daines (MT), Graham, Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), and Todd Young (IN), was formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act.
It would provide roughly $25 billion to expand the National Science Foundation's focus on technology, $49.5 billion to help build more microchips in the United States, $2 billion to help the military and intelligence communities develop semiconductors, and $1.5 billion to build more 5G broadband.
The Senate will vote Thursday afternoon on the Inhofe-Shelby amendment to require "defense parity." The duo will need to muster 60 votes to add their changes to the bill.
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the Appropriations Committee, will apparently not be one of them.
"Providing a dollar to the Defense department for every dollar of non-defense spending is simply arbitrary, and would lead to absurd results," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "Under this amendment, if we pass an infrastructure bill through reconciliation providing a $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 that budget."
Though congressional Republicans unanimously opposed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and have vowed to fight his proposed investments in health care, child care, clean energy, free community college, climate, and caregiving infrastructure — citing the debt — they have also argued that more military spending is needed.
But even the top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are only urging a 3%-5% increase in Pentagon spending for 2022 — not $2 trillion.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.