House GOP lawmakers urge Trump to back $733B defense budget

By Tony Bertuca  
December 6, 2018 at 2:58 PM

Dozens of Republican House lawmakers led by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) are drafting a letter to President Trump urging him to support a $733 billion defense budget, rather than the $700 billion being considered by the Office of Management and Budget.

The letter, released today by Turner's office, currently has 70 signatures and is slated to be sent to the White House at the end of next week. Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ) is the only Democrtat to have signed the letter thus far.

"We are strongly urging the president to follow his original budget plan of $733 billion for the Department of Defense as he prepares his presidential budget for Fiscal Year 2020," Turner said in a statement. "President Trump cannot claim he is rebuilding our military while cutting the funds necessary to do so. We've seen the devastating effects on readiness when our military is forced to make arbitrary cuts as our adversaries continue to aggressively invest in their national security operations."

Though Trump has touted the $165 billion military buildup Congress passed for FY-18 and FY-19, he sparked confusion in the Washington defense establishment on Monday when he tweeted that the current defense budget of $716 billion is "crazy."

The lawmakers' letter, however, uses Trump's own words to make their point.

"In August, you remarked: 'The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military and our warfighters in modern history. We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before and that’s what we did,'" the letter states.

"We must continue to adequately fund the military and allow for responsible growth to protect our national interests at home and abroad," the letter continues.

The letter comes on the heels of a two-hour meeting Trump had at the White House with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about the defense budget. Vice President Pence and national security adviser John Bolton were also present.

Though Inhofe admitted today the president's tweets make him "cringe," the senator said he left the meeting with the impression that Trump understands the need to provide "adequate" resources to the Pentagon to execute the National Defense Strategy.

Democrats, meanwhile, have declined to support a specific topline number for defense, but senior lawmakers like Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who is expected to become House Armed Services Committee chairman next year, have said they want to strike a balance between defense and non-defense priorities.