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Thune: Funding Our Military Should Be Congress’s First Priority

“It should not be this hard to convince [Democrats] that funding our military is more important than scoring points against the president.”

November 7, 2019

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today called on Democrats, who are blocking the ordinarily bipartisan defense funding bill, to abandon their partisan politics and fund our military.

Click here to watch Thune’s speech.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery): 

“Mr. President, on Tuesday morning I visited with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

“We talked about the military’s needs and national security priorities.

“And we talked about the fact that more than a month into the new fiscal year, Congress still hasn’t funded the military for fiscal year 2020.

“We shouldn’t have needed to talk about that, Mr. President.

“We should have passed the defense appropriations bill for 2020 weeks ago.

“But Democrats won’t let us.

“Last week, Democrats blocked consideration of the 2020 defense appropriations bill for the second time.

“And apparently they have every intention of continuing to block military funding.

“Mr. President, this is politics at its worst.

“And make no mistake, this is politics.

“A couple of months ago, Democrats and Republicans got together and agreed on defense and non-defense funding levels for 2020 and 2021.

“The idea was to pave the way for the passage of appropriations bills in a timely fashion. 

“It seemed for a moment that despite Democrats’ fixation on partisan politics and impeachment, we could actually go about the business of funding the government and the military in a somewhat bipartisan fashion.

“But apparently that was too much to ask of the Democratic Party.

“Senate Democrats are currently running from the agreement, attempting to derail the defense funding bill with poison pills that would prevent the bill from ever being enacted into law. 

“Mr. President, funding our military should be the first priority of every member of Congress.

“The safety of our country depends on the strength of our military.

“If we don’t get national security right, well, the rest is just conversation.

“And getting national security right means making sure that our military is adequately funded – making sure that we’re funding the current needs of the military and preparing for future priorities.

“And it should go without saying that an essential part of this responsibility is getting that funding passed in a timely fashion.

“Right now, since we haven’t passed the 2020 funding bill, the military is operating under a continuing resolution that maintains funding levels from last year.  

“There are multiple problems with that.

“In the first place, of course, the military is operating without all the funding it needs. 

“For example, the Pentagon can’t fully support the pay increase military members should be getting. 

“But in addition, a continuing resolution prevents the military from starting key projects that will help ensure our men and women in uniform are prepared to meet the threats of the future.

“The Pentagon can’t start new procurement projects.

“New research and development initiatives that keep us a step ahead of our adversaries are put on hold.

“All told, under a continuing resolution, the military’s purchasing power is reduced by roughly $5 billion each quarter.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of losing out on about 56 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes, depending on the variant, every three months.

“Or nearly two complete Virginia Class Attack Submarines, like the recently commissioned USS South Dakota. 

“Or about 5,000 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles like those used to clean up the site of the Baghdadi raid or strike Syrian chemical weapons facilities in 2018.

“That $5 billion isn’t spare change. 

“It’s funding for critical military priorities.

“Mr. President, in November 2018, the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission released a report warning that our readiness had eroded to the point where we might struggle to win a war against a major power like Russia or China. 

“That’s a dangerous situation for our country to be in, and we need to keep working to rebuild our military.

“And that starts with making sure that our military is fully funded in a timely fashion.

“Mr. President, on the floor last week I noted that Democrats would like us to believe that they’re serious about legislating, and that their years-long obsession with impeaching the president isn’t distracting them from doing their job.

“Well, after Democrats’ defense filibuster last week, it’s become abundantly clear that Democrats are incapable of putting anything ahead of partisan politics – including the safety of our country and the wellbeing of our military.

“It’s particularly ironic that Democrats are blocking this defense funding bill, which would provide $250 million in assistance to Ukraine, at the same time that they are trying to impeach the president for allegedly delaying Ukraine funding.

“Mr. President, it’s hard to know what to say to my Democrat colleagues.

“It should not bthis hard to convince them that funding our military is more important than scoring points against the president.

“I hope the leader will continue to bring up the defense funding bill and that enough of my Democrat colleagues will decide to join us in getting this funding to our military.

“It’s the very least we can do for the men and women who spend every day working to keep us safe.

“Mr. President, Veterans Day is coming up on Monday.

“And our nation will pause to remember all those who have served in our military.

“I’ll be calling up my dad, a World War II vet who flew Hellcats in the Pacific, to thank him again for his service.

“Mr. President, as a U.S. senator, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many veterans – men and women who decided that they were willing to lay down their lives if necessary to ensure that their families, their communities, their fellow countrymen, could enjoy the blessings of freedom.

“Members of the military give up a lot for us.

“They forgo physical comforts and embrace sacrifice.

“They accept long deployments.

“Days of duty that start before dawn or stretch long into the night.

“They accept that they will miss Thanksgivings and birthdays and Christmases.

“First steps and first days of kindergarten.

“Date nights and Little League games and family reunions.

“They shoulder the burden of facing evil head on, so that the rest of us will never have to.

“And many of them bear the scars.

“Physical wounds.

“And the invisible wounds that war can also leave.

“Mr. President, we enjoy tremendous blessings.

“And we’re used to them.

“We’re used to waking up in safety.

“We’re used to going about our days in safety.

“We’re used to voting in safety, attending church in safety, reading the newspaper in safety, expressing political opinions in safety.

“And it can be too easy to forget that we enjoy these tremendous blessings because men and women have been willing to go out and put their lives on the line for them.

“Veterans Day is a chance to remind ourselves.

“To remember that we live in peace and freedom every day because men and women were willing to answer the call to serve our country.

“We owe our veterans a debt we can never repay.

“But we can make sure that we never forget what they’ve done for us.

“And we can resolve to lead the kind of lives that will make us worthy of their sacrifice.”