- U.S. Wars & Militarism
Of Hope and Determination
In the midst of tough votes on Pentagon spending, the health care victory this week shows the power of constituent action -- and hope for a way forward.
I did not expect to be this hopeful today.
As FCNL's lead lobbyist on nuclear disarmament and Pentagon spending, I was focused this week not on the Senate, but on the House of Representatives. On its side of Capitol Hill the House was marching ahead on a massive military appropriations package, looking to add $60 billion for next year on top of the $600 billion-plus for the Pentagon our nation is already spending.
The bill’s proposed increases for the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of Energy's work on the nation’s over-sized, out-dated nuclear weapons complex, would exceed by almost $30 billion even President Trump’s requested level, including over $10 billion extra in unrequested, unrestrained Overseas Contingency Operations spending.
By piling on billions more for the Pentagon, the bill would wrongly reward the only major federal agency still to have never passed an audit.
Worse still, the bill would prolong Congress's failure to meet its Constitutional duties to guide decisions over war and peace: in the dark of night House leadership had stripped an amendment from the bill—without vote or debate—that would have finally force a re-examination of the open-ended, overly-stretched 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Luckily, this bill probably does not yet have the votes needed to pass the Senate. This is not our last opportunity to block Pentagon spending increases. As the year closes, Congress must still reach bipartisan agreement to amend existing budget caps (sequestration) that otherwise would wipe away these proposed Pentagon increases.
That said, at the end of my work day on Thursday, when the House voted 235 to 192 to advance this misguided military spending package, my heart could not help but feel dejected. (Find out how your representative voted here.)
And then, as the night drew on and the Senate looked poised to shred health care protections for millions of Americans, the valley of my frustration felt darker and darker still.
But then, in the late hours of the night, with its dramatic vote on healthcare, the Senate—and the nation’s—path opened up to a renewed vista of hope.
Just over fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy reminded students living under South Africa’s apartheid regime of some wisdom from the ancient Greeks: “Give me a place to stand,” he recounted from the words of Archimedes, “and I will move the world.”
This week, senators found a place to stand.
More importantly, you made a stand. You called. You stood vigil, and you prayed. You made incredibly difficult trips from across the country to visit offices, talk to Senators and their staffs, and make your voices heard.
And as a result, the world moved.
Democracy offers no real finish lines. The search for justice offers no final summit where the ascent is done. We always must keep racing, keep climbing, keep focusing on what’s next.
But our determination, especially on those days when the valley seems dark indeed, need not flag. We should remain confident in the knowledge that days like Thursday will come again to open new horizons of hope.
In September, Congress will begin making some of the most important and potentially most dangerous decisions about budget priorities and spending that our country has seen in decades.
The President and the House leadership have proposed dramatically increasing Pentagon spending while imposing deep, irreversible cuts to Medicaid and SNAP. They are charting a course that lifts up bombs and billionaires over health and humanity.
But this week has shown what persistence can do. Many Republicans and Democrats agree that our military budget is out of control. We can help propel bipartisan action to cut Pentagon spending, just as we helped drive a new course on health care. You can write a letter to the editor, or visit a town hall, or get a meeting in your Senator or Representative’s local office.
Keep making your voice heard, keep finding that right place to stand, and you can move the world just as it did on Thursday.