Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday touted the year-end deal on an omnibus spending package as a victory for Republicans because it will boost defense spending above the rate of inflation and increase nondefense spending at a lower rate than inflation, effectively resulting in a cut.
McConnell cast the result as the mirror image of what President Biden requested when he sent his budget request to Congress.
“The administration wanted to cut funding for our armed forces after inflation while massively increasing spending on nondefense. Republicans have taken the president’s bizarre position and flipped it on its head,” he said on the Senate floor.
McConnell said the bill, which will be released to the public on Monday afternoon, “provides a substantial real-dollar increase to the defense baseline and a substantial real-dollar cut to the nondefense, non-veterans baseline.”
Republican sources say the boost in defense-related spending compared to what they’re calling the “real-dollar cut” to nondefense spending is more dramatic when the generous increase in spending on military veterans, which is classified on the nondefense side of the spending ledger, is factored in.
McConnell also highlighted the fact that the omnibus is expected to exclude what he called “left-wing goodies,” such as the Safe Banking Act, which would prohibit federal regulators from penalizing financial institutions that do business with legitimate cannabis-related businesses.
“The bipartisan bill that our colleagues have negotiated equips our armed forces with the resources they need while cutting nondefense, non-veterans spending in real dollars,” he said. “This is a strong outcome for Republicans, and much more importantly, it’s the outcome that our nation’s security needs.”
The consumer price index, which measures inflation, rose by 7.1 percent over the past 12 months, which by McConnell’s account means the omnibus will increase defense spending by more than 7.1 percent while increasing nondefense spending by a smaller percentage.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) expressed disappointment on Monday afternoon that nondefense social spending programs will receive a smaller increase than defense programs but he noted that Democrats didn’t have much leverage to insist on parity.
McConnell is “in a bargaining position,” Durbin said, and “taking advantage of his leverage.”
“I don’t like it but we’re in a pretty desperate situation,” Durbin added, referring to the Democrats’ loss of the House majority in the midterm elections.
Democrats were eager to strike a deal with McConnell and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, before Republicans take control of the House in January.