GOP Senators Criticize House Republicans Over Defense Spending Levels in Debt Bill

Several Republican senators are criticizing their counterparts in the House of Representatives for including provisions to cap defense spending in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling that passed the House on Wednesday.

The bill places a limit of $886.3 billion on defense spending in the 2024 fiscal year and an $895.2 billion limit in the 2025 fiscal year, the latter being a 1% growth over the former. Republican senators have lambasted the caps, arguing in strong language that they are insufficient and questioning the wisdom of House Republican negotiators.

“This is one of the most ill-conceived ideas for national defense I’ve seen since the 2011 sequestration,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who claimed that defense spending should increase at the rate of inflation, 4.9%, instead. “The people who negotiated this, I wouldn’t let them buy me a car.”

In remarks on the Senate floor, Graham later lamented that “We’re going to cap spending at a level we cannot expand the Navy, in the same period of time that China’s going from 310 ships to 440. There’s less money for the Marines, for the Army, at a time of great conflict.” He also criticized the bill for not including funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said that the bill’s defense caps were “the worst part of the deal” in comments reported by Politico, though he will support the bill. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, meanwhile, called the caps “completely inadequate.”

Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Dan Sullivan of Alaska are also said to be opposed to the number, per a statement by Cornyn on the floor. Reports indicate that senators plan to introduce an amendment to the measure, with Collins saying that “paper is being exchanged.”

Graham, by far, has been the most vociferous in criticizing the bill for its defense cap. In a tweet on Memorial Day, he said that he would use “all powers available to me in the Senate … to undo this catastrophe for defense,” which may include denying unanimous consent for the bill’s swift passage. He added he would support an emergency debt ceiling increase for 90 days to avoid default while the provisions were fixed.

In other Memorial Day tweets, Graham used sweeping language to blast McCarthy and House Republicans, saying he had “total disgust” for their decision, lamented “how far the party of Ronald Reagan has fallen” and called it “betrayal.” He also turned his anger on McConnell, questioning his credibility to speak on the current bill after the 2011 debt ceiling controversy, saying “Mitch was wrong in 2011 and he’s wrong now.”

Graham, McConnell, Collins, McCarthy, McHenry, Graves and other GOP senators did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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