Do Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan have the votes to reduce Pentagon spending?

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°113 | 15 September 2021

If you find these notes useful, you can support this newsletter here and SPRI, here. Sharing these newsletters also helps. Thank you!

Situation

Reps. Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee submitted an amendment yesterday to reduce Pentagon spending next year by 10 percent, meaning that we’re looking at a proposal to trim the planned Pentagon budget by about $78 billion from the FY2022 NDAA.

If enacted, the Pocan and Lee amendment would take us at or slightly below the amount authorized by Trump’s first NDAA, depending on how you control for inflation:

Problem

Their’s is a reasonable proposition, especially considering that the reductions exclude accounts that fund military personnel, pay civilian employee salary, and a DOD health program, so as to not mess with people’s livelihoods.

The problem is that there’s no indication that it will have sufficient votes behind it, at least for the moment. For example, only 23 members signed on to this letter calling on Biden to invest the savings from withdrawing from Afghanistan withdrawal into social programs (and not back into the Pentagon).

Pocan, Lee, and other congressional progressives must team up with activists to get (considerably more) members on board with cutting down the budget for force projection.

Solution

Aside from the members who supported the same amendment last year, this recruitment effort should primarily target members who have a history of voting against military budgets, especially during the Trump administration because Biden’s budget is basically an extension of that. That part’s obvious.

Less obvious is consideration of how much campaign cash members receive from military contractors. Sludge found House Democrats who voted against the same amendment last year took 3.4x more money from military contractors than those who supported it. A similar study by SPRI and Left Flank Vets found the same thing going on in the Senate.

Zero Republicans voted for it in either chamber. The same might happen this time around. But if we’re getting any votes from Republicans and more votes from Democrats, they’re most likely going to come from the bottom quartile of military industry cash recipients, so let’s go after them. These members are the ones who will be most likely to be willing to break away from the pack, based on the available data:

^Methodology for this chart: I took 364 active House members and looked at how they voted on NDAAs over the last four years and compared it to how much each member took from military contractors during the previous election cycle (so for the 2018/2019 NDAA votes I looked at campaign finance data for the 2017-2018 election cycle; for the 2020/2021 NDAA votes I referred to 2019-2020 election data). For each NDAA vote, I excluded members who either 1) didn’t vote on the bill, or 2) didn’t have any corresponding campaign cash data available.

Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler; stephen@securityreform.org)

Find this note useful? Please consider becoming a supporter of SPRI. Unlike establishment think tanks, we rely exclusively on small donations.

Share