Durbin aims to spread around $22 billion in Pentagon cuts

The senator in charge of negotiating a spending package for the Pentagon based on the Ryan-Murray budget said Thursday that he is looking to evenly distribute $22 billion in new spending cuts.
 
Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is already deep in discussions on how to fashion the Pentagon spending bill due by the time a government shutdown looms on Jan. 16. Appropriators in the House and Senate already have a framework for how to divide the $1.012 trillion budget into 12 pieces for each subcommittee. 
 
“Negotiations are underway. We’ve got to cut $22 billion out of our mark in the Senate,” he said. “We understand this won’t be easy.” 
 
The senator, who also serves as Senate majority whip and who just assumed the subcommittee gavel this year, said he is working closely with ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on devising the cuts.
 
“We’re going to try to spread this so there is no particular hardship created,” he said.  “We have to cut spending. This is not a growth appropriations bill.”
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Durbin marked up a defense bill with $516 billion in base funding and $78 billion in war funding this year and is now aiming for a base of $494 billion.  
 
He predicted Thursday that most policy riders will be removed from the bill and referred to the Armed Services committees.
 
The budget negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is headed to President Obama’s desk with a $520 billion cap on defense spending, but that total includes military construction and energy spending. 
 
Durbin said that he is aiming to wrap up talks with his House subcommittee counterpart, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), by Jan. 6, leaving just days to push the Pentagon and other spending bills, combined into an omnibus measure, through the House and Senate floors.
 
“By the time we get back here Jan. 6 we ought to be closing most of our negotiations in the House and Senate and ready to craft a bill,” he said. “My staff tells me they will need all of that time to draft a bill to bring to the floor.”