GOP Infighting Continues Over Defense Spending Strategy

The infighting continues in the Republican Party over its defense spending strategy.

This comes as prominent members of the GOP such as Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the leading Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky press for huge increases in defense spending.

At the same time, many other conservatives are very concerned about where the U.S. debt currently stands.

All of this will be put front and center when the Senate starts to debate the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual budget that the House of Representatives has already passed.

The two senators above believe that increased spending is necessary to deter threats from countries such as Iran, China, North Korea and Russia.

In fact, according to media outlet The Hill, they’re already laying groundwork for this debate by calling for big increases in spending above what Democrats have proposed already — and even above what Republican Representative Tom Cole, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has called for, too.

They aren’t likely to succeed in their aims without a fight, though. There’s a small group of fiscal conservatives in both congressional chambers who are against increased defense spending.

Those people — who want to place a strict cap on spending levels for both non-defense and defense measures — have an outsized influence in the House, where the GOP has a very narrow majority and needs almost all members in line to pass a vote.

When the 118th Congress began, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky called on members of his party “to give up the sacred cow that says we will never touch a dollar in military.”

Last week, he leveled accusations at Wicker, saying he wanted to “explode” the U.S. defense budget.

As Paul wrote on the social media platform X:

“Big spending Republicans want to explode military budget. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: both parties are to blame for $34T debt!”

Last year, Paul introduced legislation with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont that would’ve required the Defense Department to pass an independent audit. It also would’ve mandated that any component that doesn’t complete the clean audit would have to return 1% of its budget to the Treasury Department.

There are some other conservatives in the Senate that want to rein in wasteful spending on defense. 

Earlier in May, Senator JD Vance of Ohio — who led the Republican charge in the Senate to oppose the $61 billion aid package to Ukraine — said:

“I think we need to spend more on defense. I also think we have to fix the underlying procurement process. There is a lot that needs to be done here. While I do support an increase in defense spending, just throwing money at this problem is not going to make it go away.”

He also wrote an op-ed in the New York Times recently warning that the industrial base in America doesn’t have the capacity to match the level of Russian forces in Ukraine.