Biden Wants More Money for the Pentagon: Report

Biden Wants More Money for the Pentagon: Report

By Michael Rainey
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Another boost for the military, more hullabaloo over crack pipes, and a plan to defang the debt ceiling. Here's what you need to know.
Biden to Request More Than $770 Billion for Defense in 2023: Report

President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget request to Congress is expected to include more than $770 billion for defense spending, according to a report from Reuters’ Mike Stone Wednesday.

The topline figure, which is still under negotiation, includes funding for both the military and for weapons-related activities at the Department of Energy. If the number holds, it would exceed the record defense budget requests made during the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Signed into law in December, the National Defense Authorization Act for the current fiscal year totaled $768 billion, roughly $25 billion more than the Biden White House requested. Congress plans to add another $5 billion or so for defense in its 2022 budget bill, which is expected to become law next month.

Liberals disappointed: While defense hawks and military contractors are no doubt pleased with the news, progressive Democrats were quick to express their disappointment with the possibility of a military budget that continues to increase. "This is absurd," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "It's time to stop pumping billions more each year into the bloated Pentagon budget. We can and must cut defense spending and invest in our communities, families, and climate."

Rubio Holds Up Funding Bill Over Crack Pipes

Congress is facing a deadline of Friday midnight to pass a stop-gap funding bill and avoid a shutdown, but a handful of Republican senators are slowing the effort to get a quick vote on a continuing resolution that would keep the government open until March 11.

While Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has dropped her hold on the stop-gap bill after receiving assurances from the Department of Health and Human Services that federal funds will not be used to provide crack pipes to drug users, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-LF) is now pushing a separate piece of legislation that would prohibit the federal government from supplying pipes and other paraphernalia to drug users.

The Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems (PIPES) Act, introduced by Rubio and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV), would make it illegal to use federal funding to "to purchase needles or syringes for the injection of any illegal drug, unless there is a significant risk of hepatitis infection or HIV outbreak due to injection drug use." Leaders are reportedly checking with all 100 senators to see if there are any objections; if not, the bill could pass on an expedited basis this week.

"My hope is we can just pass it without anybody objecting to it. Especially since the administration is already claiming they don't need it — they're not going to do that," Rubio said.

In addition to Rubio’s bill, a group of conservatives led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are demanding a vote on an amendment that would block vaccine mandates. And Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) wants a vote on an amendment that would require Congress to balance the federal budget. Neither amendment is expected to pass.

The bottom line: Once again, Congress is cutting it close on a vote to avoid a government shutdown. But the delays should be short-lived, and the funding bill is expected to pass before the deadline. "It looks to me like we’re on a glide path to getting it done pretty quick," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters. 

Number of the Day: 3.8%

Retail sales rose 3.8% in January, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, the largest increase in 10 months. The results were stronger than expected, even after accounting for inflation, and are being seen as a positive sign for the strength of the economic recovery.

"Inflation and the omicron surge did not deter American consumers from beginning the year on a strong note as retail sales rebounded sharply in January," economist Tuan Nguyen of the consulting firm RSM writes. "The beginning of a post-pandemic world seems to be closer than ever. With that, as fiscal and monetary policy measures continue to fade, we should expect retail sales growth to return to its pre-pandemic average relatively soon."

A Plan to Overhaul the Debt Ceiling

Aiming to reduce the risk of a financial disaster, a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday that would change the way Congress deals with the legal limit on the national debt.

The Debt Ceiling Reform Act would empower the Treasury Department secretary to issue new debt when spending levels get close to the limit, following notification of Congress by the president.  

The bill’s backers emphasized that the legislation is intended to limit the political games that can be played over the debt limit, but Congress would still maintain a degree of control by retaining the right to override the president. "It would not eliminate the debt ceiling," Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) said at a hearing Wednesday. "It would take it away from this increasing dysfunction we see in Congress."

"The debt ceiling provides no benefit to our nation, yet it has the potential to cause catastrophic consequences for all Americans," said House Budget Committee Chair Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who helped introduce the bill. "The Debt Ceiling Reform Act will make much-needed reforms to end this political brinkmanship and ensure that our nation will always honor our financial commitments and provide the economic stability the American people deserve from their government."

Speaking against the proposal, former Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that lawmakers need the pressure the debt ceiling provides. "A debt limit creates a natural point in time for Congress to account for how out-of-control spending has become and to, potentially, do something about that," the Trump administration official said in his prepared testimony. "It is seemingly the only real inflection point when Congress decides to take budgeting seriously. That’s the very least the federal government owes American taxpayers."

Quote of the Day

"We’ve made tremendous progress in our ability to protect ourselves against COVID-19. Seventy-five percent — three out of every four adults — are fully vaccinated, and two-thirds of eligible adults have gotten their booster shot.

"For all Americans, both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, we have strong tools, including free at-home tests and free high-quality masks that provide added layers of protection.

"And importantly, we have a range of effective treatments and therapeutics, including pills that are up to 90 percent effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization.

"As a result of all this progress and the tools we now have, we’re moving toward a time when COVID isn’t a crisis but is something we can protect against and treat."

— White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, speaking to reporters Wednesday.

Send your feedback to please tell your friends they can sign up here for their own copy of this newsletter.


Views and Analysis