Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will push for an increase in military spending, setting up a contrast with two other likely Republican presidential contenders who have criticized the defense budget.
In remarks at the American Action Forum, Jindal will call on Congress to support an increase in the Pentagon budget, building off a policy white paper he released last year.
“[We] cannot afford to not increase defense spending,” Jindal will say according to prepared remarks. “It’s literally the most crucial spending decision for our country. It’s not optional. It shouldn’t really even be up for discussion.”
The focus on defense spending could be read as a veiled swing at Sen. Rand Paul, who has been sharply critical of the rise in defense spending over the last 15 years, and at Sen. Ted Cruz, who has criticized pork in the defense budget. It also turns up the heat on an internally divided GOP-controlled Congress to pass a budget.
“The smart position for anyone who is concerned about the long-term health of our country,” Jindal will say about defense spending.
In a nod to fiscal hawks, Jindal will call for “corresponding cuts” to non-defense areas of the budget, while declaring President Obama’s new free community college plan and the Affordable Care Act unaffordable.
“This point goes back to Gov. Jindal making the case that if someone wants to run for President, be on that debate stage, and be in that office, they need to think through what they will do as President,” a Jindal advisor told TIME.
Jindal is languishing in national and early-state polls, but he hopes that his policy focus will help him stand out in a crowded presidential field. He joins former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in pressuring Republicans in Congress to use their majority to push GOP priorities.
“Republicans need to start showing that we can govern and lead,” Bush said in New Hampshire Friday, calling on lawmakers to produce a budget that adequately funds border security.
Excerpts of Jindal’s prepared remarks are below: