Liberal groups want 2020 Dems to back Pentagon spending cuts

Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon.

The liberal groups are writing Thursday to all candidates in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, urging the White House hopefuls to support slashing $200 billion or more from an annual defense budget that topped $700 billion for the current fiscal year.

Dubbed "Put People Over the Pentagon" and shared with The Associated Press before its release, the groups' effort aims to elevate defense spending in a presidential race where energized progressive activists are nudging candidates to embrace their agenda on a variety of high-profile issues.

"Hundreds of billions of dollars annually should be shifted away from the Pentagon and to pressing needs from education to averting catastrophic climate change," said Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog nonprofit Public Citizen. "America needs leaders who will speak plain truths about Pentagon excesses and waste."

Four senators vying for the Democratic nomination to take on President Donald Trump last year voted against the measure that authorizes the current Pentagon budget: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Sanders and Warren have criticized defense spending levels as excessive, with the Vermont senator vowing to challenge spending on the "military-industrial complex" during a March rally that launched his 2020 campaign.

Besides Public Citizen, the other progressive groups behind Thursday's push for defense spending cuts include, Indivisible and Democracy for America.