Week ahead: House takes up defense appropriations amid sequestration fight

It all adds up to a busy week on Capitol Hill, where talk about sequestration has grown amid added pressure from defense hawks and the industry.


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But the $608 billion appropriations bill will be the largest issue tackled this week. The bill, which is $3 billion higher than the president’s request, has drawn a veto threat from the White House because of spending cuts in other parts of the budget to comply with the Budget Control Act spending caps.

There are also a host of controversial issues in the bill, such as an attempt to ban military sponsorships of sporting events like NASCAR, as well as other fights than can expected to get contentious debates on the House floor.

The bill was given an open rule, meaning that hundreds of amendments will likely be filed, and a good chunk of those could get a vote.

Away from the House floor, the Wednesday hearing in the Armed Services Committee with top defense executives is the first of two high-profile hearings the panel has scheduled to try and get traction on the sequestration cuts.

Two weeks after the industry leaders testify, the committee is holding a hearing on sequestration with acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Four industry heads will appear Wednesday: Lockheed Martin’s Bob Stevens, EADS North America’s Sean O’Keefe, Pratt and Whitney’s David Hess and Williams-Pyro’s Della Williams.

Stevens has already been a vocal critic of sequestration, and he threatened that his company might send out layoff notices to all 100,000-plus employees right before the November election due to sequestration.

The industry leaders won’t be the only big names coming before the committee this week.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify before the committee Thursday about the recent national security leaks, the first time the two have come to Capitol Hill to talk about the disclosures. The hearing, however, is for members only, and closed to the public.

The House Armed Services Committee has another three hearings to cap a busy week: one Wednesday on Afghanistan historical perspectives and two Friday on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament and on Navy shipbuilding.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will convene Thursday to consider three Defense Department nominations, Gen. Mark Welsh to be Air Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Frank Grass to be National Guard chief and Lt. Gen. John Kelly to be commander of U.S. Southern Command.