WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected a Republican proposal to add $50 billion in defense infrastructure spending to Democrats’ budget plan.
Though Republicans hoped to stage a tough vote for centrist Democrats from states with military facilities, Democrats remained unified and the amendment was defeated on a bipartisan basis, 53-46.
Republicans Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Mike Braun voted with the majority.
The amendment effort, led by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered billions for shipyard rehabilitation projects, supply depots, nuclear infrastructure and 5G telecommunications gear.
It is one of many amendments expected to be considered during an hours-long series of votes before Democrats approve the resolution to tee up a $3.5 trillion spending plan.
Democrats blocked consideration of the amendment when it was offered for a massive $1 trillion infrastructure package, which the Senate approved earlier in the day. When Shelby offered his amendment again for the budget resolution, he accused Democrats of turning a blind eye to their states’ military infrastructure needs and economic interests.
“These infrastructure projects are absolutely critical to our national security, they impact millions of jobs across the country, both military and civilian,” Shelby said ahead of the vote. “We’re talking about projects not just in my home state of Alabama but in Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, and many more.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., countered that the panel’s recent bipartisan vote to raise the defense top-line $25 billion above President Joe Biden’s request was a sufficient hike. He argued the wording in Shelby amendment makes it over broad.
“As it’s written, this [amendment] provides over $50 billion in funding for unspecified uses,” Reed said. “It could be infrastructure, it could be military platforms, it could be a host of things. And the fund would extend from 2022 to 2031, beyond this Congress and beyond the current administration.”
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.