This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that would have reduced the number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe from 80,000 to 30,000. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs in fiscal year 2011. Specifically, Polis’ amendment prohibited funds provided by the underlying Defense bill from being used to maintain more than 30,000 U.S. troops in Europe.
Polis urged support for his amendment: “…We need to explore all options for reducing wasteful spending, and I think we have an easy one in front of us in this amendment. Before we ask the American people to accept painful cuts or accept tax increases, we have an opportunity here to get defense spending under control in a way that does not jeopardize or harm our national security. If we're serious about deficit reduction, we need to do something about the defense budget, and we can do it in a responsible way that doesn't hurt our national security. My amendment would do that. By reducing some of the 80,000 troops in Europe where they're no longer needed, we can save hundreds of millions of dollars….It will allow the DOD [Defense Department] to save money by closing those bases that are no longer needed. By pulling 50,000 troops out of Western Europe and closing bases, we can save money, reduce our redundant military force, and CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] has scored the savings of this amendment as over $800 million.”
Debate on Polis’ amendment was very brief. Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) argued: “The setting of our military end strengths is not something that should be done lightly. In fact, this is the sole jurisdiction of the Committee on Armed Services. They are responsible for setting military personnel end strengths, and the levels that would be set by this amendment are significantly below those in the House-passed 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. For that and many other reasons, I am opposed to this amendment.”
On a nearly identical amendment offered to a different bill, however, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) had argued: “The essential problem with this amendment is that it's arbitrary. Our troop strengths are based on extensive studies. There are whole books written about how you look to assessing threats, how you look to our overall assets, how you support the capabilities that we have in supporting our national defense. These are just arbitrary numbers that have been picked as to our withdrawal from Europe.”
The House rejected Polis’ amendment by a vote of 113-307. Voting “yea” were 88 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 25 Republicans. 210 Republicans and 97 Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have reduced the number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe from 80,000 to 30,000.