Will the Democrats back Trump's "military buildup"?
Washington, D.C.-based Democratic elites had better hold on to its proverbial hat and get ready for U.S. President, Donald J. Trump’s “Making America Great Again” because he is going to start with massive increases in Defense funding to back up his diplomatic offensive. But at the end of the day Senate Democrats may acquiesce to the Donald and back the increase.
President Trump promised in his speech last Friday before the Conservative Political Action Conference that he would execute, “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.” The Trump administration plan calls for a significant hike in Defense spending while reducing social spending but leaving Social Security and Medicare untouched in Budget 2018. It is estimated that the first Trump budget will include $462 billion in social-domestic funding and $603 billion in Defense allocations. Trump’s proposed Defense spending would be $54 billion more than the Budget Control Act caps allow for fiscal 2018. Republicans in both the Senate and House led by Senator John McCain and Representative Mac Thornberry have advanced a $640 billion base budget for Defense in fiscal 2018 to reach $800 billion in fiscal year 2022. Many observers think that Democrats will lash out to block the administration’s budgetary plan.
During the recent Presidential election campaign, President Trump campaigned heavily on Obama and Clinton foreign policy and Defense policy weakness. In the last five years of the Obama presidency there was a 21 percent cut in Defense spending with an inevitable outcome in terms of military weakness. Trump’s Defense proposals for the military during his presidential campaign were believed to have been taken from the Heritage Foundation that assumed an increase in Defense Spending of between $55 billion and $90 billion per year. The Trump administration plan still taking shape included increasing the U.S. Army by tens of thousands of soldiers until the service reaches 540,000 men to readjust from cuts under Obama. The plan seems to be increasing the strength of the U.S. Navy by 80 new warships until it has at least 350 ships, but it may be increased to as many as 355 warships. The Trump administration would also see an increase in the U.S. Air Force by adding as many as 100 new fighter aircraft to the fighter fleet until it reaches 1200 aircraft. Lastly, and close to Defense Secretary, James Mattis’ heart, would be an increase in the U.S. Marine Corps from 24 infantry battalions to 36 units.
Interestingly, the Trump administration may be able to sway the votes that it needs in the Senate from the Democratic side to get his increase in Defense spending through without a partisan battle because he has ‘allies’ and his plan is the compromise. His ‘allies’ in getting the increase are international and domestic. Chinese government sources are now saying that they may return to double digit increases in Defense spending to try and catch up to the United States. The Russians have announced increases in Defense spending. Between 2011 and 2015 the United States cut Defense spending by 21 percent, while the Chinese estimated increase was 38 percent, and Russia is believed to have increased by 40 percent in terms of its military budget. With Republicans holding just 52 seats in the Senate, they need eight democrats to come on side to meet the 60-vote threshold for increases in Defense spending.
With Senate and House Republicans demanding even greater Defense spending than the President, Democrats may be forced in the face of McCain’s “world on fire,” to ‘hold their noses’ and vote for the President’s spending plan as the compromise. McCain and Thornberry to make their spending plans work would have to slash domestic-social spending even more than President Trump. Time will tell whether the Democrats back the ‘Devil or the Deep Blue Sea.’