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The Next GOP ‘Civil War’ Battle: Defense Spending Cuts?

Lauren Boebert. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.
Lauren Boebert

Will House Republicans try to cut defense spending? – It’s the kind of history that repeats itself over and over again: When there’s a Democratic president and Republicans control one of the houses of Congress, the latter begins talking a lot about deficits and pushing for spending cuts. This type of talk tends to be absent during Republican presidencies, with the deficit and spending rarely major Republican priorities while Trump was in office. 

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This happened in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, and now that the GOP has captured the House, there are noises about that happening again. Where things get a bit more complicated, though, is when it comes to defense. 

According to The Hill, Republicans are at odds among themselves over whether defense cuts should be part of a proposed reduction in spending. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as part of his horse-trading that led to his election to the Speakership, agreed to “put a limit on new discretionary spending… at fiscal 2022 levels, if agreed to as part of a House budget,” The Hill said. 

But because the defense budget is projected to rise from  $780 billion last year to $850 billion in fiscal 2023 — as a result of the end-of-year defense authorization that was passed by Congress in December, before the GOP takeover — the terms of McCarthy’s deal would require $70 billion in defense cuts. 

Republicans, however, have often been opposed to cutting defense budgets. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) voted against the GOP leadership’s rules package due to the possibility of defense cuts. And while Gonzales was the only Republican to vote against the package, the Hill noted that the majority of Republicans will not back significant defense cuts. 

“This has a proposed billions of dollar cut to defense, which I think is a horrible idea when you have [an] aggressive Russia in Ukraine, you have a growing threat of China in the Pacific,” Gonzales CBS’s “Face the Nation,” as reported by Politico. “How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, ‘I need you to increase your defense budget,’ but yet America is going to decrease ours?”

“What we saw in the Speaker fight was that a relatively small number of Republicans are willing to hold the process hostage out of the desire to make dramatic cuts in the budget,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told The Hill. “So regardless of what McCarthy did or did not promise, that same group of people can do the same thing on the budget, on the appropriations bills, on the defense bill.”

Another potential flashpoint is funding for Ukraine. There is some opposition among Republicans in the House to continuing to fund weapons for Ukraine’s defense against Russia, although it’s not clear that there is enough opposition for such funding to be halted. 

Meanwhile, some Republicans appear to have found a rationale for cutting spending: That the military is now “woke.” 

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a member of the House leadership, said on Fox News this week that defense spending cuts should be on the table. 

“Maybe if we would focus our military spending on the soldiers,” Jordan said on Fox News Sunday. “Maybe if we focused on that, helping the troops who do so much of the work out there for our great country, and maybe focus on getting rid of all the woke policies in our military, we’d have the money we need to make sure our troops get the pay raise they deserve, we have the weapons systems and the training that needs to be done, so we’re ready to deal with our adversaries around the planet, that’s what we want to focus on.”

A showdown seems inevitable, either when it comes time to pass the budget or raise the debt ceiling, between Republicans who want to cut spending and Democrats who are not in favor of those cuts. But the GOP disagreement over defense spending cuts appears to complicate matters, especially since the Republicans’ majority in the House is so narrow. 

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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.