North Carolina members of Congress helped lead the charge to block an effort to cut military spending on NASCAR.
U.S. Reps. Larry Kissell, Patrick McHenry, and Sue Myrick were among the most vocal members advocating to continue the spending and reject – by a vote of 216-202 -- an amendment by Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn that would have cut $72.3 million in defense spending.
NASCAR's roots are embedded in North Carolina. The majority of teams are based in the Tar Heel state, which is also home to Charlotte Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte.
Kissell said the special relationship the sport has with the military would be tough to replicate elsewhere if cuts were made.
“I don't think it's any coincidence that when we look at our military forces, about 41 percent of our military is from what we describe as rural America, which is only 17 percent of our population,” Kissell said speaking from the floor. “And that relationship between the military and rural America is very important.”
Much of the focus was on the $26.5 million the National Guard will spend to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver. And proponents to stop the spending argued that the Pentagon is spending billions on projects, including military bands that do not enhance national security.
“We must come to the realization that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred and well spent, and that more of everything is simply not sustainable,” she said. “Protecting every single defense dollar means shifting the burden and the pain for billions of additional budget cuts onto local communities, middle class families, seniors, the poor, and vulnerable children.
But Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, said none of that matters if recruitment goals aren’t met. She said the military pays out nearly $1 billion a year in extra recruitment bonuses to maintain needed recruitment numbers.
And McHenry, a Cherryville Republican who was the first Representative to rise in opposition, said the National Guard saw a nearly 300 percent return on their investment.
“That comes from $68 million in media exposure,” he said. “It comes from 5.5 million pieces of merchandise and apparel that has ``National Guard'' on it, which has a value of roughly $70 million. This is a huge return for the buck. This is why Fortune 500 companies actually advertise through NASCAR --not because it feels good, but because it delivers results.”