The People Over Pentagon Act Is An Act

There’s a bill in Congress, as there always is, called The People Over Pentagon Act, which would reduce military spending by $100 billion. Who the heck isn’t for that?! Everybody who’s got any sense has endorsed the thing, as they always do. Who wouldn’t? I don’t blame anybody in the least. Except the bill’s sponsors in Congress. I blame them. And not just because they want to cut $100 billion from whatever the military budget may be, while that budget has risen by more than $100 billion since they started introducing this sort of bill. And not just because they’ve dumped $100 billion into free weapons for Ukraine above and beyond the budget that they supposedly want to reduce by $100 billion.

To understand why this thing is a scam, it helps to look at an account of how wonderfully awesome the Progressive Caucus is. It reads in part:

“In December 2022, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed to support Manchin’s permitting deal in the military budget—or National Defense Authorization Act—Jayapal polled CPC members before announcing that the caucus opposed the measure and would fight its inclusion in any legislation. More significantly, Jayapal told Pelosi that CPC members would vote against any “rule” on the National Defense Authorization Act that included it. Rules for debate on the House floor are generally adopted on party-line votes because they often add seemingly extraneous items supported by members of the majority party, such as Manchin’s permitting deal. The idea is to provide a quick path for passage of the final legislation—in this case, the National Defense Authorization Act. While Republicans would likely have lined up to pass the record-breaking military budget, they would not vote for the rule putting it on the floor, since those are virtually always taken by a party-line vote. This gave the CPC the leverage it needed to block Manchin’s permitting deal.”

This is a cheerleader for the Progressive Caucus effectively telling us something that I’ve been telling anyone who would listen since somewhere far back in the mists of time, namely that there is a way for a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives to accomplish something if they actually want to. It’s not unlike the way a group of Republicans withheld their votes for the current Speaker of the House until they got some stuff they wanted. When a group of Democrats withheld their votes, blocking a military spending bill, they were able to get something they wanted, the removal of the dirty oil deal. Terrific. Good for them. Awesome indeed.

But they didn’t so much as try to get — as they have NEVER ever once tried to get — something else that they supposedly want, namely reduced military spending. And, of course, they often don’t try to get anything at all. So, the excuse that demanding two things would just be unreasonable doesn’t get you very far. They typically demand zero things. This was a freak occasion when they were motivated to demand anything at all. And they got what they demanded. Did anyone learn anything from that?

You see, as I’ve been screaming myself blue in the face trying to communicate for decades, if you have a group of people in one house of Congress claiming to be against something, they can block it. They don’t need permission from the other chamber (the Senate), or the White House, or MSNBC. They can simply withhold their votes — either on partisan rule votes or on full-house votes in which the other party may join them for its own insane reasons.

Or they can go on letting record military spending bills come to the floor and pass, voting against them in small enough numbers to not endanger passage while still allowing them to show their constituents their noble “No” votes. If they take this route, they can also introduce bills proposing to reduce the military spending they’re allowing to pass. And organizations can get funding for tracking how a few more Congress Critters cosponsor the charade than did two years ago. It’s win-win. Except that it’s never brought to a vote, never passes the House, wouldn’t matter anyway without passing the Senate, and would be vetoed if it miraculously passed both houses.

I think this phony approach gets a boost from the “I’m for something, not against something” crowd. It’s pleasant to endorse a bill that says it will reduce military spending, whereas withholding votes from a procedural vote nobody’s heard of sounds rather weird and unpleasant, even contrary to good Party spirit and loyalty. But would you rather actually reduce military spending or go on “reducing military spending” as it soars upward forever?

A few years ago, a couple of members of Congress, the same ones sponsoring this bill, claimed they were going to create a “Defense Spending Reduction Caucus.” That sounds like something that might do just what’s needed. Except it was never created, has no website, has no staff, has no identity, has never organized anybody to do anything, and seems simply poised to burst onto the scene with a strongly worded letter in support of the People Over Pentagon Act as soon as there’s a Republican in the White House.

In fact, each time a military spending bill rolls through Congress, here’s what happens:

1) Biden proposes a massive increase

2) Zero Democrats object or encourage No votes or vote-withholding threats or even state that they will personally vote No

3) Congress, with Republicans in the lead, proposes a massive increase over and above Biden’s massive increase

4) “Progressive” Democrats whimper about the Republican increase, suggesting through omission that it was the only increase

5) But, zero Democrats object or encourage No votes or vote-withholding threats or even state that they will personally vote No (the one exception I know of was in the Senate and not exactly a Democrat: Bernie Sanders once said he would vote No)

6) The bill passes both houses and is signed into law

7) “Progressive” Democrats tell people they voted No, and moreover they’ve cosponsored the People Over the Pentagon Act. So they’re diligently hard at work trying every possible angle to do what you elected them to do!

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