DC Is Polarized — Except When It Comes to Bloated Military Budgets.

Jonathan Cohn
7 min readSep 27, 2021


On Thursday, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

The bloated $768 billion authorization increases topline funding levels by five percent relative to the FY 2021 authorization, despite the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s promises to curtail endless war.

The vote was 316 to 113, with 181 Democrats and 135 Republicans voting for it and 38 Democrats and 75 Republicans voting against it.

Here were the 38 Democrats who voted NO:

Ending US Military Presence in Syria

Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) offered an amendment to prohibit US military presence in Syria without Congressional approval (effective one year after enactment).

It failed 141 to 286, with 120 Democrats and 21 Republicans voting for it and 98 Democrats and 188 Republicans voting against it.

Here are the 98 Democrats who opposed it:

Ending US Support for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen

Ro Khanna (CA-17) offered an amendment to terminate US military logistical support and the transfer of spare parts to Saudi warplanes conducting aerial strikes against the Houthis in Yemen and permanently end intelligence sharing that enables offensive strikes and any US effort to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany Saudi or United Arab Emirates-led coalition forces in the war in Yemen.

It narrowly passed 219 to 207.

208 Democrats and 11 Republicans voting for it, and 196 Republicans and 11 Democrats voting against it.

The 11 Democrats were Cindy Axne (IA-03), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Jared Golden (ME-02), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Susie Lee (NV-03), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Jimmy Panetta (CA-02), and Chris Pappas (NH-01).

The 11 Republicans were Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Michael Cloud (TX-27), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Tom Massie (KY-04), Matt Rosendale (MT-AL), Chip Roy (TX-01), and Fred Upton (MI-06).

Gregory Meeks (NY-05) offered another Yemen-related amendment, but it was a watered-down version of Khanna’s full of loopholes. Critics had viewed it as an attempt to blunt the momentum for Khanna’s, but both ultimately passed.

Meeks’s passed 223 to 204.

216 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted for it, and 203 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted against it. The 1 Democrat was Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), and I would assume that may have been accidental (or disagreement with its loopholes).

The 7 Republicans were Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Tom Massie (KY-04), and Fred Upton (MI-06).

Demilitarizing the Police

Hank Johnson (GA-04) offered an amendment to restrict the Department of Defense from transferring certain surplus military property — such as controlled firearms, ammunition, grenade launchers, explosives, armed drones, etc. — to federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies, with exceptions only for when DOD determines that the transfer is necessary for disaster or rescue purposes or for another purpose where life and public safety are at risk.

It failed 198 to 231, with 196 Democrats and 2 Republicans voting for it and 209 Republicans and 22 Democrats voting against it. The two Republicans were Tom Massie (KY-04) and Tom McClintock (CA-04).

Here were the 22 Democrats:

Although the amendment failed, support for such a measure has increased significantly since 2014 when former Congressman Alan Grayson introduced such an amendment and received only 62 votes (43 of whom were Democrats).

24 of those original Democrats from 2014 were still present to vote for it: Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Judy Chu (CA-27), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Mark Pocan (WI-02), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Adam Smith (WA-09), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), and Maxine Waters (CA-43). Another 15 were replaced by fellow Democratic supporters, and 4 were in seats that have since flipped to Republican (John Barrow of GA, Bruce Braley of IA, Dan Maffei of NY, and Jim Matheson of UT).

It’s embarrassing and shameful that such a measure has not yet passed, but the growth in support is encouraging.

Curbing a Bloated Budget

John Garamendi (CA-03), in conjunction with Ro Khanna (CA-17), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Don Beyer (VA-08), offered an amendment to put a ten-year pause on funding for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program and W87–1. According to a letter sent by budget and military watchdogs earlier this year, the current fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) will be operational until 2030 due to a $7 billion life extension program now underway. Increasing the funding now is premature at best (if not actually harmful, as all nuclear weapons spending ultimately is).

118 Democrats voted for it. 203 Republicans and 96 Democrats voted against it.

Nonetheless, the amendment failed 118 to 299, with 118 Democrats voting for it and 203 Republicans and 96 Democrats voting against it.

Here are the 96 Democrats who voted NO:

Kurt Schrader (OR-05) offered an amendment to repeal some of the current statutory requirements for combatant commands and other parts of the Department of Defense to submit unfunded priorities lists to Congress each year, a practice derided by budget watchdogs as a “wish list” that is wasteful and undermines civilian control.

It failed 167 to 256. 164 Democrats and 3 Republicans — Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Tom McClintock (CA-04), and Victoria Spartz (IN-05) — voted in favor, and 205 Republicans and 51 Democrats opposed it.

Here are the 51 Democrats who voted against it:

Last session, it failed 173 to 241, with 59 Democrats opposed. Notably, despite the decrease in overall Democratic opposition, many of the Democrats who *did* vote for it last session flipped their votes to oppose it: Allred, Axne, Davids, Fletcher, Harder, Horsford, Lieu, O’Halleran, Panetta, Perlmutter, Phillips, Ruiz, Schneider, Schrier, Sherrill, Stevens, Trone, Watson Coleman, and Wild.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Mark Pocan (WI-02) offered an amendment to reduce the overall authorization level by 10%, excluding military personnel, DoD federal civilian workforce, and defense health program accounts from the 10% reduction.

The amendment failed 86 to 332, with 86 Democrats voting in support and 126 Democrats and 206 Republicans voting in opposition.

Here are the 86 supporters:

Last session, a similar amendment received 92 Democratic votes. What happened?

Four of the 86 supporters replaced Democrats who had opposed the amendment last year: Bowman (vs. Engel), Jones (vs. Lowey), Newman (vs. Lipinski), and Stansbury (vs. Haaland). +4

Five of the 86 had opposed it last session but now are supporters: Carson, Correa, Escobar, Garamanedi, and Lawrence. +5

Two supporters from last year gave way to vacant seats: Marcia Fudge was appointed to the cabinet, and Alcee Hastings passed away. -2

Two previous supporters were replaced by Democrats who didn’t vote for the amendment: Tulsi Gabbard being replaced by Kai Kahele (HI-01) and Denny Heck being replaced by Marilyn Strickland (WA-10). -2

Two previous supporters were not present for the vote: Yvette Clarke and Gregory Meeks. -2

And then 9 Democrats who voted for it last session now opposed it: Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Al Green (TX-09), Bill Keating (MA-09), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Richard Neal (MA-01), Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Bennie Thompson (MS-02). -9

Three supporters had replaced previous supporters: Auchincloss, from Kennedy; Bush, from Clay; Leger Fernandez, from Lujan.

Barbara Lee (CA-13), along with Mark Pocan (WI-02), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Gwen Moore (WI-04), offered an amendment to strike the increase the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) recently approved to the defense budget, returning the defense topline to amounts requested by the Biden administration.

The amendment failed 142 to 286, with 209 Republicans and 77 Democrats opposed.

Here are the 77 Democratic opponents:



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.