Just as Republican lawmakers promote their plan to slash federal spending by turning Medicare into a new-style voucher program, come the eye-popping numbers tied to the National Defense Authorization Act. Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, who has praised the proposed Medicare cuts and led the charge to slash federal funding for popular programs like public broadcasting this year as necessary belt-tightening, is celebrating his vote to spend $690 billion on the annual military budget.
“This bill tells our nation that Congress is serious about supporting our troops in their critical missions abroad,” he wrote in an email newsletter to his supporters. “We have made sure they have everything they need to complete those missions and return home.”
Lamborn’s Colorado Springs-based congressional district is dotted with military bases, training facilities and defense contracting businesses, and his record as a lawmaker evinces a classic Republican schizophrenia on spending. Lamborn swerves between righteously railing against wasteful “big government” on one side and unflinching endorsement of profligate taxpayer support for the defense industry on the other.
That unsurprising apparent contradiction was thrown under the spotlight last year when Lamborn campaigned as a staunch fiscal conservative against earmark spending. He argued that the practice was corrupt and wasteful but failed to report that he had been a prime earmark abuser, loading up tens of millions of dollars in earmarks over the short course his career on Capitol Hill for military projects in his district.
His website this month is a record of the same cutting-while-spending fiscal approach mocked by would-be Washington reformers as wheel-spinning business-as-usual governance.
“This is a defining moment… We must choose to begin making serious spending cuts or face the prospect of crushing debt and diminished prosperity for our children and grandchildren,” Lamborn writes in announcing his support for the controversial Ryan Budget.
That budget, with its deep cuts to social programs, has been panned by many economists as an attack on the poor and the middle class that rewards the rich and fails to seriously address the budget deficit.
In detailing his support for the Defense Authorization bill, Lamborn makes no mention of cuts or spending accountability, no mention of “crushing debt and diminished prosperity.” There is instead celebration of the spending the bill authorizes and a bullet-point list of the $300 million the bill secures for facilities in Lamborn’s district.
The legislation authorizes $690 billion for the Department of Defense and the national security activities within the Department of Energy for the next fiscal year. The legislation authorizes $553 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget, $119 billion for overseas contingency operations, and $18 billion for the Department of Energy’s atomic energy defense programs.
Specific to Colorado, the legislation also authorizes 8 construction projects, totaling $295 million, on Fort Carson and the United States Air Force Academy.
Army Fort Carson Aircraft Loading Area: $34 million
Army Fort Carson Control Tower: $14.2 million
Army Fort Carson Brigade Headquarters: $14.4 million
Army Fort Carson Aircraft Maintenance Hangar: $63 million
Army Fort Carson Barracks: $67 million
Army Fort Carson Barracks: $46 million
Army National Guard Fort Carson Barracks Complex: $43 million
Air Force Large Vehicle Inspection Facility: $13.4 million
Last year’s U.S. defense budget was $725 billion. The year before it totaled $674 billion.
Republicans are pitching their support for the Ryan budget as a politically brave move to take on popular entitlements in order to save the nation at a time of recession and mounting debt. Tea Party voters, however, have given signals that they may hold so-called Republican fiscal conservatives to a higher standard by attacking Lamborn-style drunken sailor spending on defense as an artifact of a different era.