Here’s how a GOP win in November could affect 2023 defense policy

Bigger defense budgets, greater scrutiny of military aid to Ukraine and a tougher line on China are all on the horizon if Republicans take control of the House or Senate. after the midterm elections, experts say.

While not at the forefront of the 2022 midterm elections, foreign policy and national security issues are likely to be upended with a GOP takeover of one or both chambers, with impacts large-scale that could happen soon after November 8th.

Pundits already have their eyes set on a range of defense topics — both global and domestic — that are set to change under a new Congress, from spending levels to social policies and everything in between, Arnold Punaro, a retired three-star general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill.

“How to dissuade China, especially vis-à-vis Taiwan? . . . How much should we really invest in the fight against climate change in terms of national security? Vaccine mandate, recruitment challenges; these are all things they are going to ask,” he said.

The GOP’s top defense priorities were first highlighted in House Republicans’ “Pledge to America,” released in September, which outlined their goals if they return to a majority.

The lawmakers promise to “support our troops, invest in an effective and efficient military, establish a select committee on China, and exert peace by force with our allies to counter growing global threats.”

Republican leaders did not give specific details on how they would achieve those goals, but they are expected to drive many of their needs for an increase in the defense budget, with the defense appropriations bill expected to rise. in fiscal year 2024 if Republicans take more control, according to Punaro.

While the defense budget for fiscal year 2023 is still being worked out between the House and the Senate, lawmakers are expected to agree to an $815 billion defense budget, about 9% more than last year’s expenses.

Higher inflation costs drove much of that increase, but Republicans are expected to ask for even more money next year, following past examples of a Republican-controlled House and Senate. , said Punaro.

Keeping an eye on Congressional spending, one of the most watched changes will be foreign aid — particularly to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia — with a split on the issue among a small number of populist members of the House GOP and those of the establishment. to party.

The United States has provided Ukraine nearly $20 billion in lethal aid since the war began in February, but Kyiv stressed that more will be needed for defense as well as humanitarian efforts as Russia continues to damage critical Ukrainian infrastructure.

As Kyiv leaders believe a GOP-led House or Senate won’t give up on arming Ukraine, they are bracing for a scenario where Republicans may seek to cut future economic aid to their country,” said Daniel Vajdich, a lobbyist who works with Ukraine. officials.

“Ukraine is not worried, but there is recognition in Kyiv that the nature of the conversation may change in the weeks and months to come,” Vajdich told The Hill.

He added that Ukrainians are “constantly engaging with Congress” and “are confident that the vast majority of lawmakers understand what is at stake and what a Russian victory would mean, not just for Ukraine, but for the states.” United themselves”.

The issue of foreign military aid in Congress next year was highlighted after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, potentially the next House Speaker, said in October that he would not there would be no ‘blank check’ for Ukraine if the Republicans took control.

“People are going to be sitting in a recession, and they’re not going to write Ukraine a blank check,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News. “Ukraine is important, but at the same time it can’t be the only thing they do, and it can’t be a blank check.”

McCarthy has since tried to downplay the statement, saying he thought the aid to Ukraine was important and was only arguing for more oversight.

“I am in favor of making sure we move forward to defeat Russia on this program. But there should be no blank checks on anything. We have $31 trillion in debt,” McCarthy said on CNBC last month.

Punaro also did not believe Republican leadership would allow a rollback of monetary aid to Ukraine, pointing to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has vowed that a Senate led by the GOP would go beyond what the Biden administration has provided and “focus its oversight on the timely delivery of needed weapons and greater allied assistance to Ukraine.”

“You have the isolationist wings of both parties stirring the pot. . . .[but] I think the leaders will be able to convince the American people and convince a majority in Congress that the risk of Russia and Putin taking over Ukraine is much greater than the other way around,” Punaro said.

And asked about the effect a GOP house could have on aid to Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the administration had “excellent bipartisan support to date as it relates to Ukraine, and therefore the department will continue to work closely with Congress on this important issue.”

Republican lawmakers are also expected to push on several social issues, particularly the Pentagon’s mandate on the 2021 COVID-19 vaccine, access to abortion, numerous defense policy changes regarding diversity, gender, inclusion and the investigation of extremism in the ranks.

These issues have prompted several heated exchanges between conservative lawmakers and Pentagon officials when debated in defense policy hearings over the past year. Most notable of these was a tense back-and-forth in April between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) over allegations that the military is pushing for a wake-up call. and socialism.

Punaro said he expects those conversations to continue into 2023 if Republicans gain full or partial control of Congress, but GOP lawmakers, while challenging several policies, are unlikely to be successful. not change them significantly.

“I think, to their credit, defense committees put national security ahead of partisan politics, and I think they will again,” he said.

And on the subject of China, expect more scrutiny from Republican lawmakers on how to deter the world’s major power with support from both sides of the aisle, Punaro added.

“In a new Congress, I think [GOP lawmakers] are going to look at the national defense strategy and determine which parts of it they strongly support and which parts they take issue with,” he said, referring to the document recently released by the Biden administration that lists China among its greatest challenges.

“I think they’re going to ask a lot of questions about this concept of integrated deterrence and does it really deter people like Iran and China? . . . [But] you have strong bipartisan support, there is no argument there.

House Republicans already set up a China task force in early 2020, but their “Pledge to America” ​​document promises a new select committee on China.

Details on the committee are limited, but like the China task force, it is expected to address many bipartisan proposals, including working with Taiwan to supply the independent island with more US weapons as China grapples with Taipei with threats to bring it under Beijing’s control.

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