Senate GOP unveils spending cuts for 2016

Greg Nash

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a series of allocations Thursday for fiscal 2016 that cut funding below current levels and differ from a proposal by House Republicans.

During their first markup, Senate appropriators on a party-line vote approved the allocations, which total $1.017 trillion for the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.

Senate Republicans, like their House counterparts, are moving forward with spending bills that are based on sequestration budget ceilings imposed by a 2011 law.

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiSenate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Week ahead: Key court date for climate rule; Fight over Flint aid MORE (D-Md.) proposed an alternative set of allocations, which failed in a party-line vote, that were a total of $74 billion above Chairman Thad CochranThad CochranMomentum builds for Clyburn poverty plan 'Hardball' Pentagon memo creates firestorm Insiders dominate year of the outsider MORE’s (R-Miss.) suggested levels.

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“This is really at the 2010 level,” Mikulski said of the Republicans’ proposed allocations. “They [do] not contain enough resources to meet the needs of the American people.”

The approved spending would cut funding from 2015 levels for the following spending bills, which cover departments and related spending: agriculture; defense; financial services; interior/environment; labor, health and human services  and education; state and foreign operations.

The agriculture; commerce; defense; energy and water; interior and environment; and state and foreign operations bills are all below spending allocations in their corresponding House versions.

Senate Republicans are proposing to raise funding above 2015 levels for the commerce; energy and water; homeland security; military construction and veterans affairs; and transportation bills. 

The Senate defense bill contains about $87 billion in war funding, which is slightly less than the roughly $88 billion proposed by the House. Congressional Republicans are relying on the Pentagon’s war fund to raise defense spending without breaching budget caps.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate’s bill funding military construction projects and veterans’ benefits contains no war funding. The House bill contains $532 million, which caused a minor revolt among a group of Democrats and Republicans last month. Their attempt to remove the provisions, however, failed on the House floor.

The difference could reinvigorate a debate over using the war fund to circumvent defense budget caps for the next fiscal year.

The panel is expected to advance bills funding energy and water programs as well as military construction projects and veterans' benefits by the end of Thursday. The House has already passed their versions of those measures, both of which the White House has threatened to veto.