Just How Quickly Will GOP Try to Ramp Up Defense Spending? Super-Quickly.
Note: Jesse Walker blogged this story earlier today. Read his take here.
The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reports that in the wake of the GOP takeover of the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other hawks are set to fly high on all things military:
McCain said his first order of business as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will be to end the budget rule known as sequestration, which requires the U.S. military to cut its budget across the board. "I want to start an examination of our policies in the world and then find out whether we have the capability to meet these expectations," McCain said. McCain also said he would use his chairmanship to root out overspending at the Pentagon, but he emphasized his desire to reverse sequestration.
And there's this, which is heartening to the extent it suggests the Constitution, which reserves war-making powers to Congress, still matters:
On Wednesday Obama said he would ask Congress to vote on the new war against ISIS during the lame-duck session of Congress that starts in December.
"I think it's time for an AUMF [authorization of the use of military force], I do," McCain said. "The one passed after 9/11 specifically talks about the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and ISIS has exceeded that definition."
Lake quotes neocon mag editor Bill Kristol:
As Ron Paul, the isolationist father of Sen. Rand Paul, tweeted Tuesday evening: "Republican control of the Senate = expanded neocon wars in Syria and Iraq. Boots on the ground are coming!" William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, was in rare agreement with the elder Paul. "I think Ron Paul told the truth," Kristol told The Daily Beast. "And the truth is that his son had a bad election season and the Republicans who were elected are various species of hawks and not Rand Paul-like doves."
Kristol may be right that the new GOP senators are hawks, but that's not the same thing as saying they were elected because they are hawks or because Americans are ready to extend old wars or start a host of new ones. The surge in support for attacking Syria and staying in Afghanistan after the beheading of two American journalists by ISIS was historically weak to begin with. Putting new boots on the ground—constantly broached by hawks—has never been popular. Given past experience, it's highly likely the GOP will misplay its hand as the congressional majority, pushing its agenda even if it's at odds with the broader population's.
The fact is that defense spending is way up from where it was at the start of the 21st century and it's been percolating just fine overall since Obama took office. According to Rasmussen, about 57 percent of voters right before the election want to see cuts to every major federal program, including defense. (Alas, very few think spending will go down any time soon and only 19 percent trust the government to do what's right in most cases.)
If the GOP figures this is their moment to pay out more money to defense contractors and to start a new series of interventions, well, it was nice knowing them.