House panel advances $575B defense bill

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved by voice vote its $575.7 billion defense appropriations bill.

The bill includes $517.1 billion for basic requirements and $58.6 billion for the overseas contingency operations war fund, though $15.7 of the war funding would be used for requirements such as readiness, infrastructure and modernization.

{mosads}The House bill only provides war funding through April 2017, so the next president will have to request supplemental funding.

The tactic drew a veto threat from the White House on Monday night after a separate defense policy bill adopted the same tactic. The White House, the Pentagon and Democrats argue that ending funding in April could leave troops deployed overseas without the money to continue fighting.

Republicans said the bill provides money for defense necessities such more troops and weapons, and a higher-than-requested pay raise for service members.

“This bill makes responsible step to avoid any readiness shortfalls and to bolster troop end strength while supporting our partners in the fight against ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and making critical investments in our efforts to stop violent extremism,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the committee.

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), ranking member of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, argued that there are too many unknowns, such as who will be president, Defense secretary and in Congress, to rely on supplemental funding next year.

“My fiscal year starts Oct. 1, 2016, not May 2017,” he said. “It is not, from my perspective, the responsibility of the 115th Congress to finish a predetermined fraction of our work, and we should not be dismissive of the difficulties we and they would face. To assume that there would be smooth sailing for a supplemental bill in the spring of next year is problematic.”

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, took issue with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s description of the tactic as “gambling with war fighting money.” 

“What was really gambling was the administration’s decision to pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan against the advice of our military leadership and not anticipate the resulting vacuum that would be filled by ISIS, the Taliban and other terrorist groups,” Frelinghuysen said.

“The bill before you does not gamble,” he added. “Rather, this proposal wisely invests more money for our troops, more money for training badly needed, modern equipment, expanded cybersecurity, more intelligence gathering capability, and yes, better healthcare outcomes for our troops and their families.”

Tags Rodney Frelinghuysen

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