OPINION: ‘We Need To Get Our Priorities Right’: Bernie Sanders A ‘No’ On $778 Billion Pentagon Budget Vote

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On Tuesday, the eve of a likely U.S. Senate vote on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would vote against the legislation because it enriches the military-industrial complex at the expense of desperately needed social programs and climate action.

“Meanwhile, the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet. “

“Many of my colleagues tell the American people, day after day, how deeply concerned they are about the deficit and the national debt,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “They tell us we don’t have enough money for Medicare expansion, guaranteed family and medical leave, or to address climate change to the extent that we should, if we want the future well-being of our children.” “

“Yet, tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will be voting on an annual defense budget that costs $778 billion–$37 billion more than [former President Donald] Trump’s last defense budget and $25 billion more than what President [Joe] Biden requested,” he continued. The Department of Defense continues to suffer from massive Fraud and cost overruns year in and year out. It is also the only major government agency that has failed to pass an independent audit. “Isn’t it strange,” Sanders said, “how even though we have ended the longest war in the nation’s history, concerns about the deficit or national debt seem to disappear under the influence the powerful military-industrial complicated? “

Sanders has frequently noted that the United States spends more on its military than the next 10 nations combined.

The NDAA is not a spending bill but rather a policy measure; a separate appropriations bill would need to be passed in order to implement the $37 billion increase.

In September, the House voted 316-113 to approve a $778 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022. Although every Republican lawmaker voted against two amendments to reduce the Pentagon budget, the votes of their Democratic counterparts were equally split.

Common Dreams reported that Democrats who voted against a proposed amendment by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) to slash 10% from the military budget received, on average, nearly four times more campaign contributions from weapons-makers than their colleagues who voted for the measure.

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While Sanders has faced backlash in Vermont and beyond for helping to bring Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets–at $1.5 trillion, the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history–to his home state, the democratic socialist has been a consistent voice for reducing military spending and has called for auditing the Pentagon and for ending or avoiding overseas wars.

Sanders further criticized the 2022 NDAA for an amendment–the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act–aimed at countering the rise of China, as well as for containing “$52 billion in corporate welfare, with no strings attached, for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies. “

“This bill also contains a $10 billion handout to Jeff Bezos for space exploration,” he noted, referring to the Amazon.com founder’s Blue Origin private orbital tourism venture.

“Combining these two pieces of legislation would push the price tag of the defense bill to over $1 trillion–with very little scrutiny,” Sanders continued. “While the Senate continues to debate the Build Back Better Act, it has also discussed whether the country can afford to provide for the needs of the elderly, children, the poor, and the future security of the planet. “

“As nations, we must set priorities,” he said. “I will vote no on the National Defense Authorization Act. “

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