This week: Defense and spending bills top agenda
© Hill file photo

The Senate will consider the annual defense policy authorization this week, while the House will plow through work on 2016 spending bills and potentially take up President Obama's trade agenda.

Senators have filed hundreds of changes to the annual defense bill, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden, lawmakers start down a road with infrastructure Sylvester Stallone reportedly joins Trump's Mar-a-Lago MORE (R-Ariz.) warning that the chamber is expected to finish its work by the end of the week. 

But Senate Democrats are taking aim at an additional $38 billion added to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the Pentagon's war fund, meant to help the Defense Department avoid the congressionally-mandated spending caps. 


Democrats say the legislation uses budget "gimmicks" but are, so far, undecided on whether or not they will block the bill from being passed. 

Instead, Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-Ill.), the second- and third-ranked Senate Democrats, suggested that the battle over the war fund is a precursor for a larger appropriations battle. 

Democrats, as well as the Obama administration, are demanding that any increase in defense spending be matched by an equal increase in non-defense spending. They're hoping to combine forces to try to bring Republicans to the table to negotiate a deal to roll back sequestration. 

"Republicans should be absolutely crystal clear about one thing: Democrats will not vote to put a defense appropriations bill on the floor that uses accounting trickery and budget gimmicks to fund our troops," Schumer told reporters. 

The Senate's work on the defense authorization is expected to last through the week. 


The House will finish consideration of the appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation as well as Housing and Urban Development when lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday. Members ran out of time last week to finish it due to the large number of amendments. 

The bigger lift will be when the House turns to debating the annual $578.6 billion measure for the Department of Defense. Rifts will likely emerge over Republicans' use of a Pentagon war fund, Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), to circumvent budget limits.

Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, offered amendments to another spending bill in April that would eliminate provisions using OCO funds to pay for military construction projects. Their amendments were ultimately defeated, but appeared at one point to potentially have the votes to succeed and derail the underlying bill. A similar effort could resurface this week.

As with other appropriations bills, the defense measure will be considered under a freewheeling process that allows lawmakers to offer an unlimited number of amendments, albeit only with 10 minutes of debate each. Likely amendments apart from those dealing with the use of OCO funds include authorizing military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, National Security Agency spying, and closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

The House will have reached the halfway point of passing the 12 annual appropriations bills under so-called "regular order" if both the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Defense measures pass this week. Congress has not cleared all 12 individual spending bills since the 1990s.

It appears unlikely to happen this year, either; Senate Democrats have pledged to block any of the individual appropriations bills adhering to sequestration.


Remaining time and the still-not-yet-finalized whip count will decide whether legislation to grant President Obama "fast-track" authority to negotiate trade deals hits the House floor this week.

House GOP leaders and the president have been aggressively courting votes for the measure, which passed the Senate last month. The author of the House trade bill, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Wis.), said last week that supporters are "within striking distance" on securing enough votes to pass the bill.

A significant number of conservatives are wary of giving more powers to a president they believe has abused his executive authority. But only 17 Democrats have stated publicly that they will support the trade bill. That has left GOP leaders scrambling to make up the vote deficit.

Even so, time may get in the way of voting on the trade bill this week. The House could end up debating close to 100 amendments to the defense appropriations bill, which will consume hours — if not days — of floor time.

Below is a day-by-day breakdown of the week ahead:


The Senate will convene at 3 p.m., before restarting debate on the defense bill around 4 p.m. No roll-call votes are expected during Monday's session. 

The House will convene at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.


Senators are expected to recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly party lunches. Votes on amendments to the defense authorization are expected. 

The House will convene at noon for morning-hour debate and 2 p.m. for legislative business. The House will debate six noncontroversial bills under suspension of the rules, including a bill to permanently extend the ban on taxing Internet access. Then the House will debate legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

Lastly, the House will finish consideration of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. The first vote series will be at 6:30 p.m., with more votes expected later in the evening.


The Senate will likely still be debating the defense authorization.

The House will likely vote on a bill to repeal country-of-origin requirements for sellers of beef, pork and chicken to display on their products. Members may also take up the defense appropriations bill.


The Senate is expected to finish work on the defense authorization before adjourning for the week.

The House will likely still be tied up in defense appropriations. Alternatively, House GOP leaders may call up trade legislation.


The House may finish work on defense appropriations or trade. If there is time, the House may also vote on the annual intelligence policy authorization.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned in a memo last week to lawmakers that the House could be voting until 3 p.m. on Friday — unusually late for what's known around Capitol Hill as "getaway day" when lawmakers depart for the week.