It’s still early in the process, but members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation are sounding the alarm over President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal. They said it has too much of what we don’t need and not enough of what we do need.
The $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending outlined by the administration last week will end up comprising about 40% of the total budget. Non-discretionary spending includes things like Social Security and Medicare and will be included in the more formal budget plan the president submits, probably later this spring.
Consistent with recent budgets, about half of the discretionary dollars, $753 billion, would go for defense spending.
"I’m very concerned about the reduced military budget," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, in an interview Thursday.
The $753 billion is actually a 1.6% increase over this year's defense budget, but Inhofe said that doesn't even keep pace with inflation and is well short of the 3 to 5% annual increase called for in the bipartisan 2018 National Defense Strategy. Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), said we need to catch up to China and Russia.
"Now, this is something that I’ve talked to all the commanders in the field [about]," Inhofe said, "and of course they can’t go public because they work for the president, but this is something it’s going to be very difficult."
At a SASC hearing earlier this week, the commander in charge of European Command, Gen. Tod Walters, told committee chairman, Sen. Jack Reed, the funding proposed by the president was "adequate."
Biden's so-called skinny budget, meanwhile, would increase funding for discretionary domestic programs 16%, drawing criticism from Republicans, who said his priorities are misplaced.
"The president is just a wish list of a lot of Green New Deals," said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District, "[and] a lot of things that are going to destroy fossil fuels."
Securing the nation's energy future requires dollars for research now, said Rep. Frank Lucas, the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Lucas opposes efforts to quickly end reliance on fossil fuels, but points out that they are a finite resource and will eventually run out.
"That may be 50 years, 100 years, 150 years away," said Lucas, R-Oklahoma's 3rd Congressional District, "but if we don’t make the investments now, we'll never get there."
There's already speculation the two sides are so far apart on a spending plan that, come September, Congress will just pass a continuing resolution, keeping current spending levels in place. But Rep. Tom Cole said that is not in Democrats' interest.
"Because that’s the last Trump budget," said Rep. Cole, R-Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District, "that’s the negotiated budget under Trump, and I think the incentive will be to bargain to avoid that."
That's why both Cole and Inhofe think that, in the end, the defense number will be higher and the domestic spending will be lower.