Bernie Sanders Secures Support from Half of Senate Democrats In Bid to Defund the Pentagon

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: In this screengrab taken from a webcast, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks about his plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Businesses are being severely impacted, schools are closing temporarily and large events are … via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Wednesday touted securing the support of half of the Senate Democrats for his amendment to defund the Pentagon by 10 percent and invest in “distressed communities” instead.

Sanders’ amendment to cut 10 percent of the Pentagon’s budget to invest in “human needs” gained support from 23 members of the Senate Democrat Caucus — half of the 45 Democrats in the Senate.

The support was not enough to get the amendment passed and part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but was a show of support from Democrats for defunding the military.

Sanders said in a statement after the vote:

Today, almost half of the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus — 23 Senators — voted to cut Pentagon spending by 10% and invest in human needs. This is far and away the most significant step forward in recent years in addressing our bloated $740 billion military budget and changing our national priorities.

We are going to continue building a political movement which understands that it is far more important to invest in working people, the children, the elderly, and the poor than in spending more on defense than the next 11 nations combined.

Sanders’ amendment was co-sponsored by progressive Sens. Ed Markey (MA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and was endorsed by Senate Democratic Leader Schumer (D-NY).

Sanders also pointed out that a companion bill in the House received 40 percent support from Democrats.

The amendments to defund the Pentagon come on the heels of progressive activists’ calls to “defund the police.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Sanders’ proposal “unhinged.”

“Today, the Senate will vote on a Democrat amendment to slash defense spending that was advertised in an op-ed titled ‘Defund the Pentagon.’ From defunding the police to defunding the U.S. Armed Forces. Republicans are going to stand firm and defeat this unhinged policy,” he tweeted.

Progressive groups who back Sanders have been pressuring 2020 Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden to support defunding the Pentagon.

Sanders and Biden recently worked together to unveil a 110-page domestic policy plan. Biden has said he is open to cutting the defense budget, according to the Washington Post.

President Donald Trump has increased the military’s budget during his tenure to help build back the military’s readiness after two decades of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and deep cuts under sequestration.

Sequestration mandated a $500 billion cut from the Pentagon’s budget over 10 years, on top of a $800 billion planned cut during that time. There were further cuts to training and maintenance budgets, which directly affected the safety of troops.

A Military Times investigation showed a spike in aircraft accidents during sequestration.

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