Bipartisan Budget Deal is a Big Deal for a Depleted Military

Congressional leaders completed a bipartisan two-year budget agreement that lifts spending caps on military and domestic spending and suspended the debt limit for a year.

“This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. No one would suggest it was perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcomes, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides.”

Bipartisanship is certainly something to tout. It harkens back to a day when both sides could put aside political gamesmanship in favor of getting things done. But compromise inevitably means that Republicans had to offer concessions that will inevitably cause some acrimony. Namely, that the agreement will increase spending by roughly $300 billion over the next two years, a tough pill to swallow for fiscal conservatives who have been warning of the risk of the national debt. 

Sadly, this was largely unavoidable unless Republicans were willing to engage in a protracted government shutdown. Republicans may have been able to live with that political gamble, and they may have been able to squeeze some additional concessions out of Democrats—such as lower domestic spending caps—but what they couldn’t live with was the active harm that would have been done to our military. 

Absent a budget agreement the military would not be able to provide pay for troops, much less recruit the 19,000 soldiers and airmen required to man shortfalls. Ships wouldn’t receive proper maintenance and aircraft would be grounded due to a lack of parts. The latter is already a tremendous problem. Currently, fewer than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly owing to lapses in maintenance and a lack of parts. And crucial investments as basic as ammunition would be depleted, thereby reducing military readiness.

The bipartisan budget agreement changes that, allowing for the investments necessary to once again ensure our military is ready to advance the security of the nation.

“I cannot overstate the negative impact to our troops’ and families’ morale from all this budget uncertainty,” Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told White House reporters. “Today’s congressional action will ensure our military can defend our way of life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms you and I enjoy to the next generation.”

Of course, that could have been done without bursting the budget. All that was needed was a few more Republican senators. Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) explains:

“The House completed our work on time by passing 12 appropriations bills over 100 days ago. Earlier this week, the House sent our government funding bill to the Senate. The Republican majority is so narrow in the Senate, that 9 Democrats stalled the process. As a result, $300 billion dollars were added to the measure in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Now the Democrats have the nerve to say the House can’t get our work done on time and that the budget spends too much — I believe my constituents are smarter than that.”

Republicans have a chance to grow their Senate majority in the upcoming elections to prevent these needless delays and exorbitant costs. Under normal circumstances the 2018 map would hint at a significant GOP pickup. After all, 25 seats currently held by Democrats are up for election in 2018, more than half of the caucus, and 10 of those seats are in states that voted for Trump in 2016. Conversely, just eight Republicans are up for election, only one of which sits in a state that went for Hillary Clinton.

These are not normal circumstances. Voters in midterm elections often use their votes to check the party that controls the White House. That suggests that Republican challengers may have an uphill battle, despite being in states won by Trump. But if Republicans can continue delivering policy wins like tax reform, without a single Democrat vote in support, and can demonstrate the fiscal harms of not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, perhaps voters’ calculus can change.


Photo Credit: By James Mattis – 170127-D-GY869-031, Public Domain,