Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., appear to be at odds over the $886 billion in funding for the Defense Department that was part of the debt limit deal signed into law by President Joe Biden on Saturday.
McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor the Pentagon funding was not enough. He is not alone among Republicans who believe the 3% bump in spending in the debt limit deal was too small. On Monday, McCarthy shot down the idea that Congress adopt a brisk hike in defense spending, urging lawmakers to look for other ways to cut waste.
"The government's work to provide for the common defense remains unfinished," McConnell said in a transcript of his Senate speech. "President Biden's request for the defense budget is simply insufficient given the major challenges that our nation faces. We are investing roughly half as much in defense today as a share of GDP as we were at the height of President [Ronald] Reagan's buildup in the mid-1980s.
"In the dangerous world that surrounds us today, this is wholly inadequate. Decades after the Cold War, the famous Reagan maxim — 'peace through strength' — still applies. But unfortunately, the Biden administration's record on defending America, our partners, and our interests has been one of weakness and delay."
McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed last week to get the debt deal through the Senate and then work on a supplemental defense spending bill in the coming months, The Hill reported Tuesday.
Whether that has any future in the House remains to be seen. McCarthy is having trouble keeping his coalition on the same track. On Tuesday, House Freedom Caucus members led a rebuke of McCarthy by tanking a procedural rule vote on a number of bills up for consideration this week, the first time such a procedural vote has failed in two decades.
McCarthy has also said any further funding for Ukraine in support of its war against Russia must come as part of the yearly appropriations process, not as part of a separate funding bill.
"The question to me is … why would you do a supplemental?" McCarthy said Tuesday, according to The Hill. "We just passed an agreement. You work through the [appropriations process]. They're trying to go around the agreement.
"If anyone thinks at the end of the day, 'Ukraine needs money,' you're gonna have to show: What did we spend our money on? What is the plan for victory? And what do you need the money for? You don't just go say 'Oh, go vote for some supplemental.'"
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