Conflict over military funding returns to Capitol Hill as appropriators and some defense hawks spar over using a special account supporting combat operations to increase defense spending above the limit set by last fall’s bipartisan budget agreement.
The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would reduce the war funding account, known as Overseas Contingency Operations, by $18 billion, limiting the account’s ability to support overseas operations only until next spring. This means additional funding would later be required to support war operations through September of next year, when Fiscal 2017 ends.
The legislation passed the House on a 277-147 vote but drew a veto threat from President Obama, who condemned the war funding maneuver as wasteful and dangerous.
Rather than appropriating less money than requested in hopes of boosting funding next year, the Senate is considering legislation that would increase defense spending by raising war funding above what military leaders asked for.
An amendment by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) was attached to the Senate’s defense policy bill that would increase war funding by nearly $18 billion above the Pentagon’s request despite protests from fellow senators. The full Senate is still debating the legislation.
While an appropriations bill will be needed to actually provide funding, the debates over authorization legislation show that some lawmakers want to abandon spending limits that were approved just last fall.
However, the appropriations committees in both chambers are drafting appropriations bills at the fall levels.
Lawmakers must stop trying to use gimmicks to circumvent spending caps and focus on passing fiscally responsible defense policy and spending legislation.
House OKs Legislation With War-Funding Gimmick (Concord)
McCain’s Amendment Seeks Boost in Defense Spending (Defense News)
Obama Statement on House Defense Authorization Legislation (White House)