Lawmakers warn of 'ugly fallout' over short-term defense funding

Lawmakers warn of 'ugly fallout' over short-term defense funding
© Greg Nash

Top lawmakers on a House Armed Services subcommittee on Tuesday spoke out against a measure to keep current Pentagon funding levels in place for the rest of the year, saying it will cause an “ugly fallout.”

The Pentagon is currently funded under a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that expires April 28. Congress has a week left in Washington to reach a deal on a new funding measure that could last through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

“I think leadership understands there’s not a stomach for a CR, short term or long term,” Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland House panel votes to restrict possible changes to Air Force One design MORE (R-Va.), chairman of the panel's seapower subcommittee, said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference in Maryland. 

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“I just don’t think you can adequately cover all the shortfalls across [the Department of Defense] with a CR," he said.

The White House requested $30 billion more for this fiscal year for defense needs, as well as $3 billion for a border wall and other homeland security operations.

But congressional leaders have already expressed an unwillingness to pass President Trump's request, punting it to later in the year and using another CR instead.

Wittman said it is likely that instead of a CR, Congress will pass an "omnibus" – passing all 12 government spending bills together at once – or a "cromnibus," passing an appropriation bill for just defense and keeping the other 11 budgets at the previous year’s funding level.

Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.), the subcommittee's top Democrat, said that a cromnibus was “a very weak” alternative to a CR – "It doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t taste good" – but added that it is better than a year-long CR.

“If, God forbid, the CR does pass, things are going to happen that are very splashy and ugly, and people are going to get a brutal awakening," Courtney said. "We need to avoid the ugly fallout."

Wittman also said the Navy must continue its modernization plans, and that the service won’t hit Trump’s goal of a 350-ship Navy if Congress doesn’t allocate the dollars needed to maintain ships already in the fleet.