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The top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are demanding a massive increase in the defense budget for 2022 — days after voting against pandemic relief.

In a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday, the committee's top Republican — Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama — and the ranking members of all seven subcommittees demanded a three to five percent increase in Pentagon spending.

The government already spent $741 billion on defense in Fiscal Year 2021.

The legislators asked Biden "to reject demands from many on the left to cut or freeze defense spending at current levels." Instead, they asked that he "continue the progress made under the Trump administration to rebuild our military by requesting a 3 to 5 percent increase over the inflation adjusted FY21 enacted level."

The letter was signed Rogers and Reps. Michael Turner (OH), Doug Lamborn (CO), Rob Wittman (VA), Vicki Hartzler (MO), Elise Stefanik (NY), Trent Kelly (MS), and Jim Banks (IN).

Every one of the eight voted on Saturday against Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Hartzler explained her opposition as being based on fiscal responsibility. "By pushing this bill through Congress in the name of 'relief,' we are recklessly gambling with our future while expanding our national deficit by trillions," she said, adding "now is not the time to go further in debt by passing wish-list pork for the Speaker disguised as 'COVID relief.'"

Banks objected to the bill as well on those grounds as well, predicting that every American's "share of the national debt would rise by $6,000" and average wages would decline.

With a record debt of more than $28 trillion and an estimated 2020 deficit of over $3 trillion — plus an ongoing pandemic — progressives are urging cuts to the defense budget.

Though all eight Republicans have long been backers of military spending, they have also attempted to present themselves as deficit hawks, committed to balancing the budget and reigning in the growing national debt.

A spokesperson for Banks said in an email that he has proposed a five-year balanced budget plan, which would include enough in offsets to cover this increase. Spokespeople for the other lawmakers did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

But Wittman is a co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and wrote in 2019 that "The longer we fail to address our nation's spending problem, the harder it becomes to solve the problem of our country's crippling debt."

Rogers said in 2011: "This debt will be more than just a heavy burden we will place on the backs of our children and grandchildren."

Hartzler called in 2016 for "a budget that balances, puts Americans' priorities first, and truly addresses the enormous debt racked up after years of failed top-down policies from [the Obama] administration."

Banks said in 2019: "Our exploding federal debt is one of the gravest national security threats facing our Nation and has the potential to significantly harm future generations of Americans."

Just last month, Kelly urged "we must do everything in our power to eliminate wasteful spending and seek ways to reduce the national debt," adding that as a member of the Budget Committee, he looked forward "to implementing fiscally conservative solutions to government spending."

And Lamborn, Stefanik, and Turner each have sections on their official website issue pages about their commitment to deficit and debt reduction.

In 2017, seven of the eight also voted for Donald Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed tax rates for corporations and billionaires while adding about $1.9 trillion to the deficit over ten years.

Stefanik opposed it because it reduced a state and local tax deduction, impacting New Yorkers.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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