“Instead of investing in going to war all around the world, we should be investing in strengthening communities all around this country.”
U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, voted against the National Defense Authorization Act today as the already bloated Pentagon budget soars to an amount exceeding $740 billion. The Congresswoman championed an amendment to the legislation that would have cut the budget by 10 percent—reinvesting the $74 billion into communities across the country—but the amendment failed to be included in the final bill.
Congresswoman Jayapal issued the following statement after the vote:
“We are simply spending far too much on the Pentagon and have been for far too long—while at the same time, cutting the budgets of the State Department, EPA, Department of Education and Department of Housing. This is completely upside down. Instead of investing in going to war all around the world, we should be investing in strengthening communities all around this country.
“We are in the midst of a global pandemic with more than 3.8 million Americans falling ill to COVID-19 and 141,000 losing their lives—more American lives lost than during World War I or the Vietnam War, and in just a short five months. More than 48 million Americans have filed for unemployment. At least 27 million people have lost health care during the pandemic, joining the 87 million who were already uninsured or underinsured. And this is all happening as the Administration refuses to acknowledge the scale of the crisis, and continues to cut funding for education, housing, transportation, infrastructure and public health.
“We must redefine and reimagine what it means to be strong. Being strong is not funding a bloated Pentagon budget that is larger than the military budgets of the next 11 countries combined. Being strong means an end to endless wars. It means investing in diplomacy, international development and coalition building. It means guaranteeing health care for everyone in this country. It means investing in our communities—putting more resources towards public health, affordable housing, universal child care, renewable energy, public transit, infrastructure, public education and giving educators a raise.
“I was proud to champion an effort to cut the Pentagon’s budget by 10 percent because there are so many ways we could invest that $74 billion, which is greater than the budgets of the CDC, EPA, Department of Housing, and National Parks Services combined. But what we should not do is give it away to corrupt defense contractors who relentlessly lobby for and profit off of our country’s excessive military budget. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this legislation would do. I won’t support it.”
Congresswoman Jayapal offered two amendments to the legislation:
- An amendment to repeal the law that requires the military to provide “unfunded priorities” lists to Congress along with their budget request each year. Currently, the Pentagon must give Congress a wish list of “unfunded priorities” on top of its budget request. This year, that list totaled $18 billion. This amendment would end that process and make clear that if something is necessary, it should be put in the actual budget that is submitted to Congress—not tacked on as a list of additional asks from defense contractors.
- An amendment to ensure that when a government contractor repeatedly and willfully commits wage theft, they are excluded from future contracts. Taxpayer dollars should not go toward contractors who refuse to follow the law, especially when they are hurting workers by engaging in wage theft. The Pentagon currently employs the most wage violators with 49 violators between January 2015 and July 2016 who collectively owe $4.7 million in back pay to 6,000 workers.