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Lawmakers balk at potential cost of Trump’s military parade

Lawmakers on Wednesday balked at the potential cost of President Donald Trump's desired military parade a day after news broke that the Pentagon was exploring possible dates.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called the idea a "fantastic waste of money to amuse the president."

"Take the money that the president would like to spend on this parade [and] instead, let’s make sure our troops are ready for battle and survive it and come home to their families," Durbin, the Democratic minority whip, said on MSNBC Wednesday morning.

Sen. Durbin: Military parade is 'a fantastic waste of money' 0:45

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., also expressed concerns about the parade, telling CNN on Tuesday night, "I don't believe we should have tanks or nuclear weapons going down Pennsylvania Avenue."

"We need to fund the entire military for the rest of the year. The continuing resolutions are absolutely not the way to go, especially as it relates to funding the Department of Defense," Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

"Cost would be a factor," he said of the parade.

The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that during a Jan. 18 meeting between the president and top generals at the Pentagon, Trump said he wanted a large-scale military parade that would roll through the streets of Washington — and that his desire was heard as a presidential directive.

Photos - American in Paris: Trump is Guest of Honor at Bastille Day Parade

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday that it was looking at dates for a possible military parade that could take place in Washington in November.

While the estimated sticker price for the parade has yet to be revealed, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted Tuesday night that "a military parade costs millions."

"Let's fix military housing, hire more VA doctors, fund telehealth, DOD schools, support the commissaries, daycare for families, or give more flight training time," he said.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, defended Trump’s idea against criticisms that it would be a waste of money.

"I’m not sure that honoring our military is a waste of money," he told MSNBC on Wednesday. "This is not about a dictatorship. This is about the president wanting to honor the military."

Trump has previously discussed his love for displays of military might. He was reportedly very impressed by a parade he witnessed in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day last year, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. The parade also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I in 1917.

President George H. W. Bush held a military parade in Washington on June 8, 1991, to mark victory in the Persian Gulf War. The cost of that parade was $12 million, according to an NBC News report at the time, which amounts to about $21 million once adjusted for inflation. At the time it was called the biggest victory celebration in Washington since the end of World War II, with a crowd of around 200,000.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted a jab at the idea of a parade, saying that he would support it if "it’s to celebrate bringing our young men and women home from these unauthorized wars overseas."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Twitter that he supported a parade, but added that his "hope is this parade will not focus on military hardware, but on military service, sacrifice, and saying ‘Thank You' to those who protect our nation."

Durbin wrote a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis requesting an explanation on how much a military parade would cost taxpayers, which Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Patrick Leahy of Vermont also signed.

“At a time of war, with American servicemembers serving in harm’s way, such a parade seems to be inappropriate and wasteful,” the senators wrote.

Mattis: Pentagon weighing options for military parade 1:33

Mattis, during the White House press briefing Wednesday afternoon, said that the idea stems from the president's fondness for the military, but he did not mention cost and said the Pentagon is still working out logistics.

"I think we’re all aware in this country of the president's affection and respect for the military. We’ve been putting together some options, we’ll send them up to the White House for [a] decision," he said. "As far as the parade goes, again, the president's respect, his fondness for the military I think is reflected in him asking for these options."

But Durbin said there is a better way to show the country's appreciation.

(Prob. M1 A1 Abrams) tank-manning Desert
Desert Storm veterans wave during a Gulf War victory parade on June 8, 1991, in Washington. Terry Ashe / LIFE/Getty Images file

"Let’s put money into the quality of life and military families who sacrifice with our men and women in uniform," Durbin told MSNBC. "And finally, let’s make sure that we’re doing something to stop the waiting lines in veterans' hospitals. That’s a good way to put money, taxpayers' money — investing in our troops, investing in our veterans, instead of the amusement of the president."