President Trump Says Debt Ceiling Deals Allow for Increase in Military Spending

September 7, 2017 Last Updated: September 8, 2017

A day after reaching a deal with Democratic leaders on a short-term increase in the debt ceiling and relief funds for Hurricane Harvey, President Donald Trump gave a major reason for reaching the deal: military spending.

“The debt ceiling will never be a problem. We could have done a one-year deal but we couldn’t do it for one reason, for the military,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday.

The president said that the United States needs the flexibility, especially in these times, for an increase in military spending.

He said that the United States has sharply increased its spending on military equipment, such as on fighter jets and ships, this year.

“Things that should have been bought over the last ten years, we’re making up for it. We have the finest military equipment in the world and we are now the biggest of all buyers,” he said.

In May this year, the Trump administration sent Congress a proposed budget request of $639.1 billion for defense, which is $52 billion above the defense budget cap set in 2011.

The defense department has said the increase in spending is needed to “continue to rebuild warfighting readiness … by fixing the holes created by previous budget cuts.” The budget includes 70 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft at a projected cost of $10.3 billion, two Virginia Class Submarines at a projected cost of $5.5 billion, as well as a CBN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier at the projected cost of $4.6 billion.

The temporary raise in the debt ceiling could make it easier for the Trump administration to make additional requests for military spending as it is faced with increased threats around the world.

In August the President decided to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan and to adopt a new strategy that would make it possible for the United States to win the war, which includes an increase in troop levels.

The United States is also facing the threat of an armed conflict with North Korea as its communist dictatorship continues to aggressively pursue the development of nuclear weapons. When asked about the possibility of military action against North Korea, President Trump said on Thursday that it would be certainly an option, pointing at the failure of 25 years of negotiations.

Deal With Democrats

President Trump surprised lawmakers on Thursday by reaching a deal with the Democratic leadership, who had wanted a 3-month increase in the debt ceiling, over the requests of the Republican leadership for a longer term deal that would last up to 18 months.

The 3-month increase in the debt ceiling was combined with federal relief in the wake of the destructive Hurricane Harvey. The deal already passed the Senate on Thursday in an 80-17 vote that included the $15.25 billion hurricane relief package. The bill will now go to the House.

“We had a great meeting yesterday with Nancy Pelosi and Senator Schumer and it was a very bipartisan meeting,” Trump said following the meeting.

He said that both Pelosi and Schumer have “great respect for the sanctity of the debt ceiling,” and that he believed the three-month extension on the debt ceiling would be passed “quite easily.”

“Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us,” said Schumer and Pelosi in a joint statement following the meeting.

Trump has also indicated that he would be open to getting rid of the debt ceiling all together. When asked by reporters on Thursday about that he said “there are a lot of good reasons” to do so.

“For many years people have been talking about getting rid of debt ceiling altogether and there are a lot of good reasons to do that. So certainly that is something that could be discussed. We even discussed it at the meeting we had yesterday,” he said.

The proposal would certainly meet with fierce Republican opposition, who see the debt ceiling as imposing discipline on the budget, a key part to reducing the national debt.