Even as leaders of their own party were in high-level talks to cut the nation’s deficit, Idaho Congressmen Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson voted Friday to add $17 billion to national defense budget for fiscal year 2012.
The new, non-emergency money represents an increase of 3.4 percent over the 2011 defense budget. The total defense budget for 2012 sits at $649 billion. About $530 billion of that amount is non-emergency money, while $119 billion is emergency funding related to the war on terror.
The House approved the budget on a 336-87 vote.
The bill gives soldiers a 1.6 percent pay hike and increases military health spending by about $32 million.
A vote to boost the budget might be seen as out of character for Labrador, who has cast himself as budget hawk during his first seven months in Congress. Labrador has even said defense spending should be examined.
“We must look at military and homeland security spending,” Labrador said to the Idaho House of Representatives during a speech there in February. “You cannot tell me there is no waste, fraud, and abuse in those areas.”
Labrador’s spokesman, Phil Hardy, defended the budget hike, saying that adequately funding the military is one way the congressman supports the troops. “He voted for the final defense appropriations bill with the knowledge that at a time when the president continues to stretch our armed forces by entering into new conflicts, this is the best way to support our men and women in uniform without endangering them,” Hardy explained.
He also pointed out that final vote doesn’t show Labrador’s efforts to cut the overall spending amount. “He voted for several amendments – which were ultimately defeated – which would have cut specific programs and lowered the overall funding level in the bill,” Hardy said.
An inquiry into Simpson’s vote for the increased defense budget has gone unfulfilled by his office.
The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate for consideration.