Week ahead: Lawmakers look to break deadlock on defense funding

Week ahead: Lawmakers look to break deadlock on defense funding
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Lawmakers in the coming week must work out how they will fund the annual defense authorization bill and work out an overall budget deal by Dec. 8 or risk a government shutdown.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by Congress in November, authorizes $700 billion for the military, including $626.4 billion for the base budget, $65.7 billion for the war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account and $8 billion in defense dollars in other committees.

But an appropriations bill to fund the massive NDAA must be approved and lawmakers must also find a way to get around spending caps set under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

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The NDAA is already well above President Trump's budget request of $603 billion, and also far exceeds the budget act caps, which set the Pentagon base budget no higher than $549 billion.

Lawmakers must either repeal the Budget Control Act or push up its cap. If they don't, the NDAA, if enacted, will trigger across-the-board spending cuts automatically.

Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that a deal to fund the NDAA was "nowhere."

"People are talking and mumbling and everything, but the decisionmakers are not having a conversation," Smith said Thursday.

"As far as I can tell, there has been no progress whatsoever towards figuring how to resolve the budget cap problem."

Smith also said that he believes there will be at least a 24-hour government shutdown come Dec. 8, as members seem unlikely to strike an overall budget deal by the deadline.

The U.S. government currently operates under a short-term budget, passed by the House in September, which expires this week. The $1.2 trillion House government funding bill for the start of fiscal 2018 funds several agencies, including the Defense Department, but the Senate has yet to consider the funding package, where Democrats can filibuster.

"The government will shut down for 24 hours until we go, 'oh shit, that's not popular,' " Smith said.

Smith predicts that if it reaches that point, Congress will approve a brief, 48-hour continuing resolution (CR) until a final budget or another, longer CR is agreed upon. A CR freezes current funding levels and prevents any new programs from starting.

House Republican leaders are currently floating a two-week CR to avoid a shutdown on Dec. 8, with likely another continuing resolution to punt the funding fight into January.

While the Senate works on funding the defense bill, there are a range of House and Senate hearings on defense issues scheduled.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to consider nominations and bills, including the reauthorization for the North Korean Human Rights Act, at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Senate, room 116. 

Immediately after the business meeting, the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the president and Congress's shared authority over international accords with testimony from outside experts at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. 

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on advancing human rights to combat extremism at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on defending against international terrorism threats at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Dirksen 342. 

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy toward Tibet at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Rayburn 2172. 

Another House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on Brexit negotiations at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Rayburn 2200.

A Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee will hold a hearing on countering terrorism and promoting stability in North Africa with testimony from State Department officials at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Dirksen 419. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on counterterrorism in Africa with testimony from State Department and Pentagon officials at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Rayburn 2172. 

The military service secretaries and the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on acquisition reform at 10 a.m. Thursday in Dirksen G-50. 

 

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