The Republican coronavirus response bill includes some $8 billion for the Department of Defense, including funds that would go towards military programs that were cut by the Trump administration in order to pay for the wall on the southern border with Mexico.
While previous coronavirus response packages had included prohibitions on using the assistance to fund border barrier projects, the current proposal backfills money that was used to pay for the wall while also trimming federal unemployment benefits to $200 from the current level of $600 for Americans out of work due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The new proposal unveiled on Monday includes millions in funding for Air Force F-35 jets, C-130J transport planes, and P-8 surveillance aircraft.
It also includes $260 million for the Navy’s EPF Expeditionary Fast Transport ship which is built in Alabama, the home state of the chairman of the Senate Approbations Committee, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby.
All these military projects had previously been subjected to cuts in February as the Trump administration diverted Pentagon funds to the border wall via a process known as reprogramming.
That reprogramming move drew the ire of Democrats and even some Republican lawmakers. The Trump administration defended the move by saying that the projects were “Congressional special interest” items and not Pentagon priorities.
Not all of the projects that were subject to reprogramming are being back-filled in the new proposal and it contains funding for other projects including wing replacements for A-10 aircraft that didn’t lose funding when money was diverted to pay for the wall.
Democrats were quick to criticize the Republican proposal.
“The bill contains billions of dollars for programs unrelated to the coronavirus, including over $8 billion for what appears to be a wish-list from the Department of Defense for manufacturing of planes, ships, and other weapons systems,” Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in a statement.
“The bill provides nothing to address the long lines at foodbanks and shortchanges education and childcare, but we can shore up the defense industry? I am at a loss for words,” he added.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Tedd Barrett contributed to this report.