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Biden is being chastised by House Democrats over his plans for Afghanistan and defense expenditure

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Early Thursday morning, House Democrats broke ranks with the Biden administration, passing a defense policy measure that raises tough questions about the US departure from Afghanistan while slashing the Pentagon’s budget. The vote totals for the National Defense Authorization Act, which was enacted with considerable Democratic support in the House Armed Services Committee, don’t fit the neat partisan narratives about defense expenditure cuts that were put up in November 2020.

Biden is being chastised by House Democrats over his plans for Afghanistan and defense expenditure

They also show dissatisfaction among moderate Democrats with how the war was ended, indicating difficulty ahead for a White House that already has razor-thin House and Senate margins. One of the main topics of discussion during the panel’s protracted discussions on the NDAA was the new instability surrounding the Afghan pullout, and Republicans made Vice President Joe Biden a primary talking point. However, the bill tapped into bipartisan anger about what many lawmakers perceived as a hasty exit that left American citizens and Afghan allies behind. Biden’s comments over Afghanistan came after a bipartisan condemnation of his $715 billion Pentagon spending plan, which was increased by $24 billion for a total of $740 billion by a large majority of the panel.

The decision, which was pushed by Republicans and moderate Democrats, would make it easier for the defense measure to get a bipartisan vote on the House floor, but it will almost surely enrage Democrats on the left. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a $25 billion increase to the defense budget by a 25-1 margin in July, demonstrating that the president’s own party’s problems are not limited to the House. Conservatives, on the other hand, are still planning to vote against the bill because of some Democratic-backed features, such as attempts to combat extremism in the military and requiring women to register for the draft.

Afghanistan:

The panel sifted through dozens of amendments from Democrats and Republicans demanding more information about the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, including how the administration plans to combat terrorism and extricate U.S. citizens and Afghan partners who remain in the country. “What we saw last month in Afghanistan was horrible.” President Biden’s decisions were “disastrous,” according to leading Armed Services Republican Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). “I am concerned that they have made America less safe. Our task has become much more crucial and arduous as a result of these self-inflicted wounds.” Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) has proposed two amendments that would require the Pentagon to report to the committee by Nov. 1 on why it departed Bagram Air Base and why it stopped providing maintenance support to the Afghan air force.

Every single one of them was approved without a single dissenting vote. The panel also approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), which calls for an annual report and twice-yearly briefings to Congress on “over the horizon” counterterrorism capabilities in Afghanistan, as well as ongoing efforts to retrieve U.S. citizens, contingency plans for continuing to evacuate Afghans with special immigrant visas, and the threat posed by ISIS.

A bill introduced by Rogers would force the Pentagon to submit plans to Congress describing how it will help in the evacuation of American residents as well as perform counterterrorism missions alongside intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations after the departure. Despite this, Democrats rejected a severe Republican criticism of Biden, which would have announced that Congress has “lost confidence” in him over the withdrawal. While the majority of the ideas centered on the last months of the US pullout from Afghanistan, Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Washington) cautioned members against focusing solely on the Biden administration, arguing that Congress should look at the country’s longest combat. “If we’re going to look at Afghanistan honestly, we need to look at it over the past 20 years,” Smith added. “There was a lot that went into it, and I believe that focusing solely on the last four months would be a disservice to the men and women who served there.” To that end, the panel endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) request to appoint a 12-member bipartisan commission on Afghanistan to look into the conflict’s whole and offer recommendations about lessons gained. Despite bipartisan outrage over Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, the panel rejected several of the most politically charged proposals. In a 28-31 vote, Democrats defeated Rep. Michael Waltz’s (R-Fla.) amendment, which stated that “Congress has lost confidence” in Biden as commander in chief as a result of the withdrawal.

For defense hawks, the original budget request was a red line, and increasing Pentagon spending will almost certainly persuade Republicans to support the package when it reaches the House floor. Rogers’ amendment focuses on the military services’ and commanders’ wish lists that were not included in the administration’s budget. It would pump roughly $10 billion into the Pentagon’s coffers to acquire more weaponry, including billions more for Navy shipbuilding, more planes, and more combat vehicles.  Fourteen Democrats backed Rogers’ initiative, with many from from regions with a strong defense sector presence or a large military population. The action is likely to widen the chasm between centrist Democrats and progressives who want to cut defense spending. Reps. Ro Khanna and Sara Jacobs of California, both members of the Armed Services Committee, voted against the military bill because the committee allowed the additional expenditure. There is a good chance that more will follow. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a progressive who chairs a caucus dedicated to lowering the Pentagon budget, termed the vote “unwarranted and unneeded.” In a statement, Pocan stated, “This bloated budget is already much more than what the President requested, and I will not stand for it.” “Increasing the Pentagon’s budget to pay for defense contractors’ second houses is not the approach to address America’s most serious security issues.” The draft is as follows: Despite a substantial budget increase, conservatives may be irritated by Democratic amendments to the law, the most notable of which is a new need for women to register for the draft. In a bipartisan 35-24 vote, the Armed Services Committee approved Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s (D-Pa.) bill to expand the Selective Service System beyond men. Although no Republicans voted against the bill in committee, certain conservative legislators and groups have been vocal in their opposition to include women in a hypothetical military draft and may vote against the bill as a result. Progressive and anti-war activists oppose the move, arguing that the Selective Service should be abolished rather than expanded to include women. In a statement, Mac Hamilton, advocacy director for Women’s Action for New Directions, said, “Far from advancing fairness, this action expands the evils of the Selective Service to women without sufficient Congressional or public debate.”

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