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Ocasio-Cortez Slams Manchin for Opposing $3.5T Bill But Approving Defense Budget

Right-wing Democrats are set to approve double the amount for defense than the reconciliation bill would cost in a year.

Congressional Progressive Caucus members Rep. Cori Bush and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on September 30, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) called out Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and other so-called deficit hawks for wanting to limit federal spending — except when it comes to the sky high defense budgets that Congress authorizes yearly.

Manchin has been a leading campaigner against the size of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion bill, which would be paid out over the course of 10 years. This week, he said that he will only support a bill of less than half that size at $1.5 trillion. But he continually supports Congress’s defense funding, voting to grant roughly $9.1 trillion to the Pentagon over the last ten years, according to The Week. In other words, the amount of money he would tolerate for social spending is only a sixth of what he’s authorized for the bloated defense budget over the same time period.

Ocasio-Cortez condemned the hypocrisy of Manchin’s position on Wednesday, saying, “Ever notice how ‘deficit hawks’ vote for record-high defense spending, yet claim bills that help people & challenge lobbyists are ‘too much?’”

She also pointed out that Congress is slated to authorize nearly $770 billion for the Pentagon next year while the Build Back Better Act would cost only $350 billion a year. “Guess which got rubber stamped & which gets deemed a ‘spending problem,’” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also called out the hypocrisy this week. “It was okay for the Republicans to use reconciliation to provide some $2 trillion, unpaid for, in tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. That was fine,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But when progressives are fighting to provide dental and hearing care to seniors on Medicare, address the climate crisis and expand child care support for families, so-called deficit hawks say, ‘oh, that’s terrible, we can’t afford it,’” Sanders said.

“The military budget is now going to be somewhere around $770, $780 billion. Over a 10 year period, that is more than double what the reconciliation bill will be. And yet I hear very little discussion about throwing money at the military industrial complex,” Sanders continued.

The future and size of the reconciliation bill is still unclear, but progressives scored a win for the package on Thursday by holding the line against conservative Democrats who want to decouple the social spending and climate bill and the roads-and-highways infrastructure bill. The progressive House representatives have now successfully moved a vote on the infrastructure bill twice, insisting that the Build Back Better Act passes the Senate before they will vote for the infrastructure bill.

Though it is hypocritical of Manchin to pick and choose where he decides to care about federal spending, he appears to be employing a longstanding Republican strategy to care about the federal budget only when it comes to Democratic priorities. The West Virginia senator is likely driven by a desire to appease the right-wing groups and deep-pocketed lobbyists who support him — and to pad his own bank account.

Manchin has demonstrated this time and again over the past months, cohorting with wealthy Wall Street donors and basking in praise from conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He’s also parroted conservative lobbyists’ talking points on the reconciliation bill, asking Politico’s Burgess Everett, “Why do you think we worked so hard to separate [the infrastructure and reconciliation bills]?” Earlier this year, the Chamber of Commerce praised conservative Democrats in the House for attempting to decouple the bills.

As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out at a rally on Thursday, Manchin and his deep-pocketed allies have nothing to worry about when government programs like the ones included in the reconciliation bill are cut.

“Better than nothing? Isn’t something better than nothing?” she said, paraphrasing the words of some of her right-wing Democratic colleagues. “That might be an easy thing for some of you all to say. Because when a bill passes that is underfunded, that only gives a crumb, you get that crumb. Because when you only give some and not all, then some people get nothing.”

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