Defense Funding Should Not Play Second Fiddle to Political Games
‘I remain hopeful that my friends on the Democratic side will join us in honoring the terms of the agreement struck by the president and the Speaker and help us reboot a bipartisan funding process. The readiness and modernization of America’s military, and the safety of the American people, should not play second fiddle to our Democratic colleagues’ political strategy.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the need to fund the government:
“This weekend saw a brazen attack by Iran on a critical oil facility in Saudi Arabia. This is not just an isolated drone strike with the prospect of regional escalation, but an attack with significant repercussions for the entire global energy market. We are fortunate that advances in U.S. oil and gas production have made the U.S. more energy independent and added capacity to global markets, but the impact of this attack could still be substantial. For this reason, I welcome the Administration’s preparations to potentially release oil from our strategic petroleum reserves if needed to stabilize global markets. I hope our international partners will join us in imposing consequences on Tehran for this reckless, destabilizing attack.
“Now, on another matter, when the Senate returned last week, we anticipated our top priority would be conducting the appropriations process and avoiding a lapse in government funding. We had a clear roadmap, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement negotiated by the president’s team and the Speaker of the House. It set topline funding targets for both defense and non-defense, and laid out ground rules to protect the process from partisan politics.
“So there’s been reason for optimism. This week, we hope to move to the House-passed bills for Defense, Energy & Water, Labor-HHS, and State & Foreign Operations. This would be our first procedural step to get the process moving for all of our priorities, on both sides. There’s nothing controversial about this particular grouping of bills. In fact, it was Speaker Pelosi who combined this grouping of bills to move first over in the House. And furthermore, if any of the funding measures was going to be handled earnestly across party lines, surely it ought to be the bill funding the Department of Defense.
“Our fundamental obligation is to provide for the common defense of our country. All members feel our responsibility to keep the nation safe. And fortunately the caps agreement specifically allows us to increase defense funding to meet the growing threats our nation faces. And yet, here’s where we are. One week in, our Democratic colleagues tried to stonewall the defense funding bill in committee, and are now indicating they may even filibuster a motion to begin considering the House-passed defense funding later this week.
“There is only one way to read this. Some of our Democratic colleagues have determined they would rather stage a political fight with President Trump than secure the resources that our uniformed commanders urgently need to do their jobs. National security is taking a back seat to partisan politics.
“So let’s be absolutely clear about the concerns and priorities that our Democratic friends are de-prioritizing. The defense spending measure would bolster efforts to modernize our forces and build the U.S. military of the future. Russia is actively modernizing its own forces, just as we’ve seen the Putin regime step up its brazen attempts to exert destabilizing influence well beyond its own borders. In China, the last decade has seen military spending nearly double. Our regional partners continue to feel the tightening grip of the Chinese Communist Party on trade and strategic activity throughout the Indo-Pacific region, while the technological ripples of Chinese cyber-meddling are felt right here at home.
“In the face of surging great-power adversaries, simple upkeep is not enough to keep America and our allies safe from aggression. Comprehensive funding for research, development, and readiness programs is what’s needed. In Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and beyond we continue to face sustained threats from terrorist organizations. And in the Middle East we have seen how Iran’s bid for regional hegemony and its investments in terror, missiles, and cyberactivities threaten the United States, our allies and partners, key shipping lanes, and global energy markets.
“This bipartisan defense bill would help us adapt to meet these new threats while ensuring our commanders can prosecute existing operations without being consumed by the instability of short-term Continuing Resolutions. But our Democratic colleagues would rather provoke a partisan feud with the president. They’d rather have a fight with the president than stick to the agreement that we all made.
“At least, that’s where we are as of the moment. I remain hopeful that my friends on the Democratic side will join us in honoring the terms of the agreement struck by the president and the Speaker and help us reboot a bipartisan funding process. The readiness and modernization of America’s military, and the safety of the American people, should not play second fiddle to our Democratic colleagues’ political strategy.”
Related Issues: Russia, China, Appropriations, America's Military