WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Thursday sank a Republican proposal meant to boost defense spending by binding Congress to equal increases to defense and nondefense spending.

Sens. Jim Inhofe and Richard Shelby, the top Republicans on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees, offered it as an amendment to a bill to fund technological research to counter China. The proposal would have preserved the parity principle that characterized budget negotiations under yearlong statutory budget caps, which expired last year.

The measure needed 60 votes to pass, and it failed 44-53, mostly along party lines; three Republicans voted “no.”

Supporters succeeded in mounting a tough vote for some moderate Democrats, who Republicans need to unseat to regain control of the 50-50 Senate.

Inhofe and other Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden’s forthcoming defense budget request as inadequate to counter China’s growing military, and they’ve argued the bipartisan China bill left out the military side of the competition.

“All the ‘soft power’ in the world will only benefit us as long as we have the hard power to back it up. We must maintain our military edge against China and Russia,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said ahead of the vote. “Yet for all this talk about competing with China, the Biden administration’s budget proposal seeks to cut defense spending, after inflation.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Wednesday the proposal would surpass the 3-5 percent defense increase Republicans have sought, adding that he opposes these top-down approaches.

“I think the best way to do a budget is to build it from the ground up; what do you need, what’s essential, what don’t you need, etc.,” Reed said of the defense budget.

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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