Military Spending Emerges as Big Dispute in Debt-Limit Talks
Funding for the military has emerged as a key point in reaching a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and prevent a catastrophic default, with Republicans seeking to protect the Defense Department from spending caps and education. Like pushing for deep cuts to domestic programs.
President Biden rejected the call, pointing to a long series of past budget deals that have combined cuts or increases in military spending with discretionary programs outside of defense.
How the parties resolve this issue will be critical to the final outcome of any loan agreement. It is possible that in order to reach a deal that prevents default, Democrats will accept a deal that allows military spending to rise even as non-defense spending falls or remains flat.
Mr. Biden’s aides and congressional Republicans are trying to negotiate a deal to end the borrowing limit imposed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy before the government runs out of money to pay its bills on time. Be done, which could be by June 1. Republicans have refused. Raise the limit unless Mr. Biden agrees to cuts in federal spending outside the military.
Cost reduction has been discussed. Narrow in focus Most cover a relatively small corner of the budget—known as discretionary spending. This expenditure is divided into two parts. One is money for the military, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will total $792 billion for the current fiscal year. The other half funds a wide range of domestic programs, such as Head Start preschool and college Pell Grants, and federal agencies such as the Departments of Interior and Energy. The Budget Office estimates it will total $919 billion this year.
A separate category, known as mandatory expenses, is often considered out of bounds in discussions. That spending, which is the main driver of future spending increases, includes programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Administration officials have proposed freezing both parts of discretionary spending for next year. This would amount to a cut in the budget compared to the budget office’s estimated spending level, as calculated by the budget office. Spending in both parts of the discretionary budget would be allowed to grow by only 1 percent for fiscal year 2025. It might even amount to a budget cut because 1 percent would certainly be less than the rate of inflation. The proposal would save about $1 trillion over a decade, compared with current budget office projections.
Republicans rejected the plan at the bargaining table. They are pushing to reduce non-defense spending in nominal terms — that is, spending fewer dollars this year than the government spent this year. They also want to allow military spending to rise.
“It just sends a bad message and Republicans feel that it’s not in our best interest to cut spending at a time when you’re seeing a lot of instability in China and Russia and around the world,” said Rep. Robert B. said Adderholt, Republican of Alabama, who sits on an appropriations panel that oversees Pentagon spending. “That’s the fundamental position that most Republicans hold.”
Mr. McCarthy made the same note while speaking to reporters on Thursday. “Look, we’re always looking for where we can find savings and other things, but we live in a very dangerous world,” he said. “I think the Pentagon should actually have more resources,” he added.
Republicans added 10-year caps on discretionary spending in a bill passed last month that also extended the debt ceiling through next year, and party leaders said they would exempt the military from those caps. Mr. Biden has vowed to veto the bill if it passes the Senate in its current form, which is unlikely.
White House officials have criticized Republicans for focusing their proposed discretionary savings on domestic programs, saying their bill would cut border enforcement, care for some veterans, Meals on Wheels for older Americans and Spending on other popular programs will be reduced.
“House Republicans have been very clear about how they see things moving forward and that the cuts they’ve made — 22 percent cuts to veterans and health care and Social Security — will hurt American families,” Crain’s Jane Pierre, the White House press secretary, said this month.
Congressional Democrats, including members of committees that oversee military spending, have attacked Republicans for focusing on large-scale nondefense programs.
“If you’re going to freeze discretionary spending, there’s no reason on earth why defense shouldn’t be part of that conversation,” said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. “Republicans are holding hostages to push their narrow agenda,” he said. I’m not a fan of it. It’s not something I want to support.”
Any deal that would increase military spending while freezing or reducing other discretionary spending would break with a tradition of budget deals dating back to 2011, when House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling until President Barack Obama did so. Obama won’t agree to spending cuts. Default Avoidance Deal That was focused on spending caps Divide their deficit equally. Between defensive and non-defensive programs.
The push to increase military funding while making steeper cuts elsewhere reflects divisions in the House Republican caucus. This includes a large faction of defense hawks who say the military budget is too small, along with another large faction of spending hawks who want to significantly shrink the federal government’s fiscal footprint.
Mr McCarthy needs both factions to retain his grip on the speakership, which he narrowly won this year after a marathon week of efforts to secure votes. And he will need to navigate both as he tries to push any debt ceiling deal with Mr. Biden through the House.
Katie Edmondson Cooperation reporting.