Senators tout $574.5B defense spending bill that sticks to budget

Senators tout $574.5B defense spending bill that sticks to budget

A Senate defense spending bill would stick to a bipartisan budget agreement reached last year and set defense spending at $574.5 billion for fiscal year 2017.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense unveiled details of its defense appropriations bill during a Tuesday morning markup where senators made clear they were not employing the tactics of their House counterparts. 

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“We built our appropriations bill around the $574 billion that is consistent with the budget agreement,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSchumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds DEA allowed more opioids even as overdose deaths rose | Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion law | Three states report more vaping deaths | Dem proposes new fix for surprise medical bills MORE (D-Ill.), the ranking member of the subcommittee. “It’s remarkable that we have achieved as much as we have without resorting to gimmicks that arbitrarily cut off military operations before the next president takes office.”

The bill, which passed the subcommittee by voice vote, would provide $515.9 billion in base spending and $58.6 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

By contrast, the House defense appropriations bill, which was passed by the House Appropriations Committee last week, would provide $517.1 billion for base spending and $58.6 billion for OCO. But $15.7 billion of the war funding would be used for base requirements such as readiness, infrastructure and modernization, leaving the OCO account dry by April 2017.

The House version of the defense authorization bill would also only authorize war funding through April.

Like the Senate appropriations bill, the Senate defense authorization bill sticks to the budget agreement. But Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Meghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash MORE (R-Ariz.) is hoping to amend the bill on the floor to add $17 billion, which would cause the policy bill to diverge with the appropriations bill. 

Among the expenses funded by the Senate appropriations bill is a 1.6 percent pay raise for troops, an active-duty end strength of 1,281,900 troops, $212.5 billion for operations and maintenance, $1.8 billion to build the capacity of fighters combatting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and $396.6 million for development activities related to new space launch vehicles or rocket engines.

On the rocket engines, the appropriations bill diverges with the Senate authorization bill in allowing Russian-made engines to be bought. The Senate authorization bill would only allow the Air Force to use nine Russian-made rocket engines, while the appropriations bill would require that all launch providers can compete for a contract regardless of their country of origin. 

One new item in the appropriations bill touted by subcommittee members is $1 billion in Navy shipbuilding funds for a new heavy-duty icebreaker. If passed, it would be the first time Congress has funded an icebreaker since the 1990 defense appropriations bill.

Global powers are relying on icebreakers as they move to maintain access to, if not control, new waterways created as Arctic sea ice melts.

The Coast Guard currently has three icebreakers, but only two are fully functional and only one is a heavy-duty icebreaker.

By contrast, Russia has 40 icebreakers and another 11 planned or being built.

“We are sitting dead in the water when it comes to our ability as a nation to be leading in the Arctic because we simply do not have the infrastructure,” Sen. Lisa  Murkowski (R-Ala.) said. “So the commitment today to making this a reality is very, very significant.”