House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas advocated for the budget caps on defense spending to be removed Monday.
Thornberry said with President Donald Trump now in the White House, there is an opportunity for Republicans to look at potential cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending, but protecting the country needs to be a priority.
“The rest of the story is, unlike previous years, you have Congress and an administration who are looking at the big budget picture–with the Obamacare changes, you’ve got Medicare, Medicaid, and the Obamacare entitlement all in play, you’ve got tax reform in play,” he told reporters. “So, there are some big moving pieces we have not had.”
Thornberry noted that the majority of the nation’s spending goes to entitlements, arguing while it’s important there may be other areas that are more pressing.
“Remember, two-thirds of the federal budget is entitlement spending, and I think the point that several people made was: you’ve got to pay attention to that, which I certainly don’t disagree with,” he told reporters Monday. “I would just say that we cannot wait to fix our airplanes until we get all our budget problems solved, and I believe there is a lot of agreement on that.”
According to the Texas Republican, Congress has been wrong in linking defense spending with other budgetary priorities in the past.
“One of the worst things that’s happened in recent years is some sort of argument that you cannot increase defense spending unless you give an equal amount of money to domestic spending,” Thornberry said. “That’s just wrong. If we are going to hold the military hostage to however much we can increase domestic spending, we will never be able to have the sort of safe, ready force that our men and women deserve.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has also called for increasing military spending, having recently proposed a defense budget that surpassed the levels requested by former President Barack Obama. Thornberry said defense reform should be a top priority and the military needs to be well funded if the United States wants to remain a world power.
“I know some people have gotten used to thinking ‘oh, if you’re going to do a dollar here, you got to do a dollar there,’” he continued. “That has never happened before in our history and it is absolutely wrong morally and every other way to hold our military hostage with that sort of thing. I understand some senators usually argue with me, but it’s wrong.”
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