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HASC chairman Smith: ‘Will be a fight’ over defense budget if Biden wins presidency

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (New America/Flickr)
October 02, 2020

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, predicted that the Democratic Party will likely clash over defense spending cuts if Joe Biden wins the presidency in November and Democrats retain control of the House and retake the Senate.

During an Association of Defense Communities event this week, Smith said he and Biden both opposed defense budget cuts, but he predicted progressive wings of the Democratic Party would launch renewed efforts to reduce the defense budget if Democrats hold power. “There will be a fight, no question,” Smith said, according to The Hill. “There will be those Democrats who want to substantially cut the defense budget.”

Describing the potential calls for a defense budget cut, Smith said, “I don’t believe it is the majority of my party and I know it is not the position of the Biden-Harris ticket”

Smith said, “If you listen to our colleagues, we’ll get the locusts and the frogs and the floods, and when Democrats take over, the world as we know it will cease to exist.” He added that Biden “has stated unequivocally that he does not envision cuts in the defense budget.”

Smith’s assessment comes after Congress passed and Trump signed into effect a continuing resolution, keeping the government running at 2020 budget levels and averting a government shutdown that would have otherwise occurred without a budget. With the continuing resolution, government functions can continue until December 11, placing the next set of budget negotiations after the November 2020 presidential election.

Trump has touted increases to military spending throughout his presidency, including with the creation of a new military branch, and, according to the Hill, Republicans have warned of defense budget cuts under Democratic control.

Smith acknowledged pressure from the progressive wing of the party to cut the budget.

In May, 29 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Rep. Smith and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, calling on them to cut defense spending in order to free up more funds for other budget requests. In particular, the letter called for the defense budget to be cut to free up spending for coronavirus relief spending.

The letter was organized by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and was signed by many members of the Progressive Caucus, including Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

“I’m going to be perfectly honest here, there are a lot of forces within my party that want to see significant cuts in the defense budget,” Smith continued. “The number that is usually trotted out is 20 percent. We had an amendment to cut it by 10 [percent] this year on the floor that was soundly defeated.”

“I don’t disagree with some of my more progressive friends that we cannot excessively rely on the military as we engage in the world,” Smith said. “But I do disagree that we can cut the budget by that much.”

Politico reported Smith went on to say, “What we have to do, Republican and Democrat alike, is make sure that money’s spent wisely.”