Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, speaks with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the FY19 budget, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The U.S. Congress is poised to feed the defense budget by the due date the first time in a decade.
A bipartisan band of House and Senate lawmakers formally announced an agreement Thursday for any $674 billion defense appropriations bill, packaged with funding for that departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor as well as other government agencies, or Labor-HHS.
A joint conference committee finished reconciling the two chambers’ bills, teeing up a compromise report to pass prior to addition of the fiscal year, Oct. 1. If successful, it might avert a partial government shutdown.
“The Defense and Labor-HHS bills account to the lion’s share of discretionary spending, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “Pairing both of these bills was the lynchpin in our strategy to pass through appropriations bills within the Senate. One, the very best priority for Republicans; the other, the most notable priority for Democrats. Both vital that you all Americans.”
The bill includes a rescission of $3.8 billion in 2018 funds the Pentagon wanted last year but sometimes not spent.
But most information on the balance just weren’t immediately released, such as how it reconciled competing visions for the JSTARS ground surveillance, command and control plane, along with a divide about the variety of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The final bill is predicted to get printed ahead of the end of the week.
The House is scheduled to recess Thursday until Sept. 25, if it will have only four days in session to approve the package. The Senate could have next week as well as the week after.
A good sign for its passage of defense/Labor-HHS “minibus” is that conferees rebuffed controversial policy riders from both sides from the aisle, lawmakers said.
“I am also pleased until this bill costs nothing of controversial poison pill riders,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “We did our responsibility and focused for the task available, which is making responsible, thoughtful decisions about how precisely to finance these federal agencies. This is the actual way it should be done.”
The defense/Labor-HHS “minibus” is next inside queue after Congress’s first 2019 “minibus,” which include money for next year’s Veterans Affairs and military construction funding, together with energy and water programs as well as the legislative branch. The bill includes a good start for nuclear weapons funding.
For the entire content of government, the defense/Labor-HHS conference report carries a continuing resolution through Dec. 7, to allow for Congress to accomplish develop spending bills.
Leery after many years of unstable budgeting, pro-defense lawmakers have pressured appropriators to be effective quickly and so the military is fully funded ahead of the end in the fiscal year. Congress has recently completed its annual defense policy bill, named for the late Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, which President Donald Trump signed a few weeks ago.
Signing a Pentagon spending bill into law before Oct. 1 can be an achievement the U.S. government hasn’t managed since 2008, when President George W. Bush signed the 2009 defense spending bill on Sept. 30. The record from the Clinton and both Bush administrations is spotty.
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the package fulfills the requests of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford for stable, timely funding.
“We can all be proud to state the cycle of continuing resolutions stops here plus it stops today,” Granger said. “This agreement provides critically needed funding for readiness, equipment and research that allows Secretary Mattis to along with the (service) chiefs to remain to rebuild our military and satisfy the diverse threats to our national security.”
Democrats expressed hope the Pentagon would make use of the stable funding with prudence and transparency. They pointed to the Defense Department’s first-ever department-wide audit, being printed in 2 months.
“This bill contains a lot of money, just shy of $674 billion,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and vice chairman in the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “Secretary Mattis can have his hands full making sure these settlement is spent wisely rather than wasted, but I trust him.”