Leading House Democrats slam weapons spending in Senate COVID relief package

By Justin Doubleday / July 28, 2020 at 4:21 PM

Top House Democrats have come out against additional funding included for Pentagon weapons programs in the Senate GOP's latest COVID-19 relief package.

In addition to nearly $11 billion to reimburse defense contractors, the stimulus bill unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) includes more than $8 billion in funding for the Defense Department to buy aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and missiles, as well as research and development funds for efforts like hypersonic defense.

In a statement released today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) criticized the weapons spending in the Senate bill, calling it a "weak" proposal.

"While it is true that COVID-19 poses a real and credible threat to our national security, you don't have to be a doctor or a four-star general to understand that spending billions on new helicopters, combat vehicles, and fighter jets is not the solution to this complex problem," Smith said.

He also acknowledged COVID-19 has had a "a disproportionate impact on small manufacturers who play a crucial role in our industrial base."

"We need to implement smart policies that actually support these small manufacturers and maintains the stability of our supply chain -- Leader McConnell's procurement wish list is not the solution," Smith continued.

Some of the proposed weapons spending would replace money reprogrammed from DOD procurement accounts to finance President Trump's border wall, according to Smith.

"It is also no secret that earlier this year the Trump administration abused the reprogramming authority to divert funding from military equipment and modernization accounts to pay for the president's vanity wall," he said. "Now, Republican Senators are trying to capitalize on the urgency of the moment to backfill these accounts while in the same breath arguing that unemployment benefits should be cut in the name of fiscal responsibility."

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) also slammed the weapons spending included in the GOP bill.

"While doing nothing to address food security or provide payroll protection for state and local workers in critical jobs, Senate Republicans are splurging on weapon systems," she said in a statement released today. "Amphibious ships don't feed hungry children, and the Senate Republican bill doesn't meet the desperate needs of the American people."

Congress goes on an extended recess starting Aug. 7, leaving little more than a week to negotiate a fourth COVID-19 relief package.