It was late yesterday when Republican leaders finally unveiled the economic aid package, the contents of which are still being carefully reviewed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, seemed to have no idea that his party's proposal included money for a new FBI headquarters -- as part of an apparently corrupt scheme to help one of Donald Trump's businesses.
But that's hardly the only controversial element of the GOP plan. Roll Call reported overnight:
Senate Republicans have laced their roughly $1 trillion coronavirus relief package with at least $7 billion for weapons, most of which are built by leading contractors that contribute heavily to congressional campaigns. The draft appropriations portion, made public Monday evening, includes money for fighter jets, helicopters, radars, ships and armored vehicles that the measure’s authors have deemed “emergency” spending that is not capped by the budget control law.
Remember, the ostensible point of the aid package is to bolster U.S. efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and relieve the economic burdens felt by Americans during the recession.
It's also, evidently, an opportunity for Senate Republicans to try to direct billions of dollars to defense contractors.
Among the many provisions along these lines in the GOP bill is $686 million for Lockheed Martin's F-35A Air Force fighter jets -- which Donald Trump genuinely seems to believe are literally invisible.
Several months ago, the president characterized COVID-19 as an "invisible enemy." Perhaps his party has come to believe invisible planes will be effective in combating it.
All joking aside, I'm eager hear Republicans pressed on these details. After careful intra-party negotiations, which lasted weeks, GOP officials settled on a plan that slashes benefits for the unemployed, while ignoring Democratic calls for food assistance and aid to states. Those are priorities, Republicans concluded, that the country simply can't afford.
These same Republicans, however, apparently believe we can afford a plan that includes $1 billion for P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance jets, $283 million for Apache helicopters, $720 million for the C-130J Hercules transport planes, $200 million for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense anti-missile system, and $650 million to replace the wings on A-10 attack aircrafts.
It's all a matter of priorities.
Update: In case this isn't obvious, these proposed military investments are on top of the money the Senate allocated for defense in the NDAA, which was approved in the chamber last week.