WASHINGTON – So much for the refrain about cutting spending. Lawmakers changed their tune on the military band budget.
By voice vote Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House restored $120 million for the armed services' 100-plus military bands — money that budget-conscious members of the Appropriations Committee had cut last month. The quick vote came as Republicans and Democrats elsewhere on Capitol Hill clamored for significant spending cuts in negotiations with the White House on a deal to raise the borrowing limit.
Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, sponsor of the amendment to the $649 billion defense bill, said the cut to the band budget wouldn't save taxpayers any money nor would it reduce the Pentagon budget.
"The facts about our bands are that they are an integral part of the patriotism that keeps our soldiers' hearts beating fast," Carter said.
Carter said the bands perform at funerals, USO events, concerts and welcome-home celebrations. He said the Army has 100 bands, Air Force 24, Navy 14 and the Marine Corps 14, and their numerous events "are all part of what makes our military the patriotic body that it is."
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who had sponsored the cut in the Appropriations Committee, pointed out that her effort didn't eliminate the money but simply capped the spending at $200 million. She said the portion of the budget for military bands had grown substantially over the years.
"I think it's time to ask the Pentagon to make a small sacrifice in its musical budget," McCollum said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., questioned the wisdom of protecting the band budget when other programs, including food stamps and aid, faced deep reductions.
"I love John Philip Sousa. I love military bands. I love marching bands, but people have to eat," Nadler said. "We are being savaged in the budget we are passing and in the negotiations on the debt ceiling. ... This seems the least we can do."
The vote came on the defense spending bill for next year's Pentagon budget. The House is expected to pass the legislation by week's end.