Dem Senator: Tax Hike--to Fight ISIS--'Morally Responsible' Thing to Do

By Brittany M. Hughes | March 11, 2015 | 4:59pm EDT

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) (AP Photo)

( -- Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Wednesday called for a “temporary war surtax” to help pay for the cost of fighting the Islamic State, calling it a “morally responsible” decision. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he agreed with Coons.

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to discuss President Barack Obama’s request for an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State, Coons said he plans to propose amendments to the AUMF that “call for a temporary war surtax, that raises revenues, or one that is a mix of raising revenues or cutting spending to offset the cost of the conflict against ISIL.”

“A question I want to raise is about who bears the cost, in addition to the men and women of the armed forces and their families,” Coons said during the hearing.

“I think we need to be putting on the table in our conversation about authorizing the conflict against ISIS, the financial cost,” he continued, adding that, “the need to pay for the war is, for me, an essential concern.”

Coons also said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have "added literally trillions of dollars to our nation's debt."

“I think we cannot write another blank check for war,” Coons said. “We have to pay for it. I think it’s also not just fiscally responsible but morally responsible. It engages every American in bearing the cost of the conflict.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Coons during the hearing that he agreed with the senator’s proposal, but added that any tax increase should be “dealt with in another way” outside of the current AUMF request.

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“You’re raising a very important question,” Carter told Coons. “My own view is that that question is not best associated with the authorization for the use of military force, although it’s a very important question. The AUMF principally covers the kind of campaign required and the support and authority in the president to engage in that.”

“With respect to the expenditures, we are in a situation … in which we’ve had year after year of turmoil, which is disruptive, which is wasteful, which causes all of us … to have a very difficult time managing appropriately and efficiently,” he continued.

“That’s a very important problem. And I appreciate your attention to it and agree with what you said,” Coons stated.

Defense Secretary Carter then said, “I think that is best dealt with, and needs to be dealt with, but would be best dealt with in another way than by incorporating the funding situation in the AUMF.

However, the number of boots on the ground in a conflict doesn’t always correlate directly with the amount of money the federal government spends on defense.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. (AP Photo)

In 2002 there were approximately 5,200 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service released on Dec. 8, 2014.

In Fiscal Year 2002, the federal government spent nearly $331.8 billion on defense and military programs, according to a budgetary report from the White House Office of Management and Budget.  (See  Outlays by Agency, 1962-2020.xls)

In 2008, there were approximately 187,900 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – the highest number of troops deployed between the two countries in a single year since 9/11, according to the CRS report. That fiscal year, the federal government’s defense spending had jumped to $594.6 billion.

But even as troop numbers began to decline after 2008, federal defense spending continued to rise. In 2009, there were 186,300 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq -- however, the federal government spent a record $636.7 billion on defense.

In 2010, with 151,800 troops on the ground -- about 35,000 less than the year before -- the government spent an even higher $666.7 billion on defense. That's about $30 billion more than the previous year.

In 2011, there were only 106,200 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the government spent about $678 billion. (See Outlays by Agency, 1962-2020.xls )

In 2012, only 67,500 troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan – about one-third of the 187,900 record in 2008. However, the federal government still spent $650.8 billion in defense spending -- about $56 billion more than it spent during its peak-deployment year.

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