opinion | More Republicans in Congress means more money for the Pentagon

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When the Republicans lost the 2006 midterm election — the Democrats gained a net six Senate seats and 30 House seats — President George W. Bush declared it was “a blow” and promised to work with both parties.

When his party lost eight Senate seats and 52 in the House of Representatives in 1994, Bill Clinton was rather reluctant: “We were held accountable yesterday,” he said.

That kind of accountability returns to the White House — back to the Democrats — on Tuesday. Though Democrats brace for bad news, the massive rebuke that comes with an election wave won’t come until the next day, when a president traditionally appears before reporters to take his medicine in public.

This tradition is part of our democracy – accepting election results no matter how bad the news is.

Then the political spotlight will turn to the future almost as quickly. The Presidential Question: Will Joe Biden run again even if his party loses 25 to 40 representative seats and the Senate majority? My guess is yes. Great political personalities do not appear out usually in the limelight. They wouldn’t have grabbed the limelight if they were the retiree guys to begin with. Stepping aside isn’t in their DNA.

Such questions no longer matter to voters who are more worried about record inflation, rising crime and falling school grades. Even as the machinery of what is sure to be an intriguing 2024 GOP nominating contest begins to roll, the resolution of more immediate issues should lie ahead for future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Top priority: the replenishment of America’s arsenal, particularly those parts of it that have been depleted by the shipment of so many weapons and weapons systems to Ukraine and neighboring countries. The good news is that Washington’s bipartisan support for Kyiv has helped reduce Russia’s inventory of tanks, armored personnel carriers and precision-guided missiles by large, double-digit percentages.

The bigger – and more important – test is preparing for an almost inevitable confrontation with China. Here’s one area McCarthy and McConnell can count on for increasing the defense budget, particularly for that service’s Navy and submarine fleets.

Biden remains the commander-in-chief, but Congress has primary responsibility for approving the funds that are keeping the United States strong. Let’s hope the next president doesn’t – as Donald Trump had to do – spend much of his first two Pentagon budgets to replenish the closet.

The generation that waged the global war on terrorism after 9/11 has many talented representatives in Congress. There will likely be more to come in the new class. A second “greatest generation” of lawmakers, who have transitioned from serving in uniform to serving on the hill, will prove strong proponents of national defense. The GOP must reclaim the mantle of Ronald Reagan as the advocate of a strong and confident America. This reclamation project begins by coining a GOP convention on an underfunded Pentagon.

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