After several senators turned it down, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has agreed to take the gavel of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Durbin’s ascension to the spending subpanel’s biggest chair hands a member of the Senate’s leadership team the responsibility of shepherding annual Pentagon appropriations bills to final passage in the upper chamber. The Senate has yet to pass a 2013 defense appropriations bill.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., was named the new chairman of the full panel several weeks ago but opted against also taking the Defense subcommittee gavel.
In his first comments as chairman, Durbin immediately signaled defense budget cuts are likely — and soon.
“As we wind down the war in Afghanistan, face upcoming budget cuts, and work to prepare our military for future threats, this subcommittee will focus on ensuring our military remains the most powerful, ready and capable force in the world,” Durbin said in a Jan. 25 statement.
“We will also work tirelessly to ensure we’re spending wisely, protecting taxpayers and planning well for the future needs,” Durbin said.
Durbin takes the gavel after other Democrats, such as Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tom Harkin of Iowa, opted against becoming the defense subcommittee chief. The move will become final once the Senate passes its 113th Congress organizing resolution.
A review of Durbin’s voting record shows he has typically voted in favor of Pentagon spending measures. He has, however, voted against some military policy measures in recent years over concerns about issues like enemy combatant detainee policies.