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On Tuesday, the eve of a likely U.S. Senate vote on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would vote against the legislation because it enriches the military-industrial complex at the expense of desperately needed social programs and climate action.
“Meanwhile, the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet.”
“Many of my colleagues tell the American people, day after day, how deeply concerned they are about the deficit and the national debt,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “They tell us that we just don’t have enough money to expand Medicare, guarantee paid family and medical leave, and address the climate crisis to the degree that we should if we want to protect the well-being of future generations.”
“Yet, tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will be voting on an annual defense budget that costs $778 billion—$37 billion more than [former President Donald] Trump’s last defense budget and $25 billion more than what President [Joe] Biden requested,” he continued. “All this for an agency, the Department of Defense, that continues to have massive fraud and cost overruns year after year and is the only major government agency not to successfully complete an independent audit.”
“Isn’t it strange,” added Sanders, “how even as we end the longest war in our nation’s history concerns about the deficit and national debt seem to melt away under the influence of the powerful military-industrial complex?”
The NDAA is not a spending bill but rather a policy measure; a separate appropriations bill would need to be passed in order to implement the $37 billion increase.
In September, the House voted 316-113 to approve a $778 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022. While every Republican lawmaker voted against a pair of amendments that would have cut the Pentagon budget, their Democratic colleagues were evenly split on the measures.
Common Dreams reported that Democrats who voted against a proposed amendment by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) to slash 10% from the military budget received, on average, nearly four times more campaign contributions from weapons-makers than their colleagues who voted for the measure.
While Sanders has faced backlash in Vermont and beyond for helping to bring Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets—at $1.5 trillion, the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history—to his home state, the democratic socialist has been a consistent voice for reducing military spending and has called for auditing the Pentagon and for ending or avoiding overseas wars.
Sanders further criticized the 2022 NDAA for an amendment—the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act—aimed at countering the rise of China, as well as for containing “$52 billion in corporate welfare, with no strings attached, for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies.”
“This bill also contains a $10 billion handout to Jeff Bezos for space exploration,” he noted, referring to the Amazon.com founder’s Blue Origin private orbital tourism venture.
“Combining these two pieces of legislation would push the price tag of the defense bill to over $1 trillion—with very little scrutiny,” Sanders continued. “Meanwhile, the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet.”
“As a nation, we need to get our priorities right,” he added. “I will vote ‘no’ on the National Defense Authorization Act.”