President Trump wants to increase Pentagon spending, but Congress will make the ultimate decision. While Congress is often only too eager to fund military programs — whether or not the Pentagon requests them — members are open to influence from their constituents.
Time and again this year, your members of Congress will be asked whether to add more money to the Pentagon’s already excessive and unaccountable budget. Your advocacy can make a difference in whether Congress will reject these proposals.
May – July
Representatives will vote on both military policy and appropriations. The National Defense Authorization Act sets what the U.S. could spend money on. Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX), who leads negotiations over what goes into the authorization bill, is seeking a $90 billion increase in Pentagon spending. But other representatives will push back on these increases with their own amendments — if they hear enough support from their constituents.
Once the military policy is set, the military appropriations bill determines how much the Pentagon can actually spend. That legislation provides another opportunity for representatives to reject increased Pentagon spending.
At town halls and meetings with constituents in August, members will gauge voters’ views headed into the fall. This is an important opportunity to let your members know you oppose Pentagon spending increases.
September – October
The Senate will take up military authorization and appropriations bills. As in the House, senators can offer amendments and go on the record against new Pentagon spending.
Congress must make a decision about how to fund the government by the end of its fiscal year on September 30. It is likely that Congress will pass a continuing resolution by that date to give more time to complete authorization and appropriations bills.
Sometime this fall, the U.S. will hit the “debt ceiling,” a limit Congress has set for how much money the U.S. can borrow. The debt ceiling determines whether the government can pay for existing obligations. Unless Congress raises this limit, the U.S. government will not be able to pay creditors and will default on its loans. A U.S. default would have devastating consequences for the global economy.
With a great deal at stake in raising the debt ceiling, some members of Congress are likely to ask for conditions before they will agree to a vote, including rolling back caps on Pentagon spending set in 2013. FCNL opposes this move if it allows Pentagon spending to increase while cutting key health care, food assistance, and other domestic programs.
November – December
At the end of the year, Congress will make binding decisions about how much money the Pentagon will get in 2018, and possibly 2019, when it passes final appropriations and authorization bills.
Throughout this year, members need to hear steady opposition to increased Pentagon spending. Knowing that their constituents value investment in programs that build peace and true security, rather than in the tools and strategies of violence, can help give representatives and senators the support they need to vote against more Pentagon spending.