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Monday, April 19, 2021

Trump’s 2020 Campaign Promise on Defense Spending Isn’t What it Sounds Like

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First, President Trump cast off the mounting debt of the federal government by mocking that it’s “a peanut” compared to other U.S. spending. Then he promised an even bigger federal spending spree ahead.

“More for what?” said Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I don’t know of anything that says this president is going to take a vote next year that says we’re going to spend more money.”

Mr. Trump promised a massive stimulus at a campaign rally in Indiana on Wednesday night, saying that next year will see “our military get stronger and stronger and stronger. We’re going to have to put our defense expenditures on an entirely different level.”

But then, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, he said that could happen without congressional approval. Asked about that prospect, Mr. Trump said, “That’s fine.” He added, “By ’16, ’17, we’ll be borrowing less.”

Mr. Trump is right that since he took office, the federal debt has soared, to nearly $21 trillion and climbing. But his 2020 promise is likely to be less onerous on national security. That’s because the Pentagon has found a number of ways to blunt the impact of the enormous defense budget hikes proposed by Mr. Trump so far.

Advocates say the Pentagon can overcome the additional spending without congressional approval because of the formula underlying the defense budget that determines the proportion of funding the government needs.

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