Austin calls on lawmakers to pass new spending bill for Pentagon
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is urging congressional lawmakers to pass a new spending bill for the Pentagon, saying a “failure to do so will result in significant harm” to the U.S. and national security.
Congress has until Dec. 16 to pass a new funding bill and avoid a federal government shutdown.
There has been talk of Congress passing a longer continuing resolution (CR) or temporary funding measure to give negotiators more time to agree to a new omnibus spending bill that would cover the Pentagon and other government agencies. A CR would maintain funding at existing levels, while an omnibus would more likely include stepped-up funding for the Pentagon.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) obtained by Politico, Austin said operating under a temporary funding resolution “moves our budget backward, not forward,” and will reduce the Pentagon’s top line by $3 billion.
“We must break this pattern of extensive inaction,” Austin wrote. “We can’t outcompete China with our hands tied behind our backs three, four, five or six months of every fiscal year.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are facing a time crunch as the deadline approaches for the appropriations bill.
There are also other critical items on the current legislative agenda, including the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Schumer last week said Democrats are hoping to have a productive period in the lame-duck session before the next Congress forms in January with a Republican majority in the House.
But Democrats need Republicans on board with a bare majority in the Senate, as 60 votes will be required to overcome procedural hurdles. Some conservatives have backed delaying the funding bill to curtail Democratic spending, including for defense matters.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill earlier this year that “part of the problem with our defense spending is the fact that they have uncertain appropriations.”
“So we need some certainty, I think at least for the Pentagon, on what money they can actually spend and when they can spend,” he said.
In his letter, Austin thanked lawmakers for passing bipartisan legislation this year to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia, but said “broader national security needs” were just as important for both political parties to fund.
“They deserve and require prompt action as well,” he said. “I strongly urge you to act decisively — now — to meet America’s needs.”