House panel OKs $608B Defense bill

The House Appropriations Committee passed a Defense bill Thursday that provides $3 billion more for defense than President Obama’s proposed budget.

The $608 billion Defense bill passed out of the full committee on a voice vote, setting up a showdown with the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is expected to move a budget that’s funded at the level requested by the Obama administration.

The same budget fight is expected for the Defense authorization bill, which sets defense policy and is being debated on the House floor Thursday.

The fight over top-line spending stems from last year’s Budget Control Act, which set spending caps for defense spending that led the Pentagon to propose cuts of $487 billion over the next decade.

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House Republicans have pushed back against those cuts and propose higher spending levels for the Pentagon.

The bill includes the restoration of several programs that the Pentagon wanted to cut, including $278 million for the Global Hawk Block 30 drone and $850 million to “pause” cuts in the National Guard and Reserves.

On Thursday, the committee also approved an amendment that failed last year, which targeted the military’s sponsorship of NASCAR and other sporting events.

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) last year, but this time Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) took up the proposal, which prohibits military funding sponsoring semi-professional and professional sporting events.

Kingston said in committee that cutting sports sponsorship funding — which is used for recruiting efforts by the military — was a “great place to send a signal” as the military cuts its budgets, as well as 100,000 troops.

Defense subcommittee chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said he did not support the amendment because the military should be visible in the community, but it was adopted on a voice vote.

The committee also passed an amendment from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that prohibits moving funding from the base budget into Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget that the administration’s budget hadn’t placed there.

The amendment was an indirect shot at the Senate Appropriations Committee, which shifted nearly $5 billion to the OCO budget in order to comply with the budget act caps. The OCO budget, designated for the wars overseas, is not subject to the spending caps.