May 19, 2020 / 4:57 PM / 12 days ago

Citing 'greatest adversary' coronavirus, some U.S. Democrats want defense cuts

FILE PHOTO: An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome ahead of the House of Representatives resolution appointing managers for the Senate impeachment trial against U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Calling the novel coronavirus the “greatest adversary” facing the United States, progressive U.S. House of Representatives Democrats called on Tuesday for a reduction in military spending as the country grapples with the pandemic.

Twenty-nine House Democrats signed a letter sent to the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the House Armed Services, asking them to authorize spending below the $730 billion in this year’s military budget.

“Congress must remain focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and distributing needed aid domestically,” said the letter, which noted that annual defense spending has increased by more than $100 billion, or nearly 20%, over the past three years.

“Right now, the coronavirus is our greatest adversary,” they wrote.

The virus has killed more than 90,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work, crippling businesses that have closed as the public has been ordered to stay home to avoid spreading the disease it causes, COVID-19.

Lawmakers are currently working on the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which sets annual defense spending levels, for next year.

A spokeswoman for the Democrats on the committee said the panel’s chairman, Democratic Representative Adam Smith, who is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is aware of concerns about the level of defense spending and that requests will be addressed during the legislative process.

The first signers of the letter were Representatives Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Sonya Hepinstall

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