House passes $675B Pentagon spending bill
The House on Thursday advanced a $675 billion Defense Department spending bill for fiscal 2019.
Lawmakers voted 359 to 49 to approve the bill, which would provide $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding and $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.
One additional amendment to the bill was adopted before the final vote, Rep. Katherine Clark’s (D-Mass.) provision to move $14 million to support Pentagon innovation.
Four other amendments were shot down, including two from Rep Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) — one to increase Air Force buys of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) by $33 million, the other to boost Navy AMRAAM procurement by $24 million.
An amendment offered by Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) to block dollars meant to develop a space-based missile defense layer also failed.
The most anticipated amendment, a proposal to free up $1 billion to speed up buys of the Navy’s Virginia-class submarine, lost big in a 144 to 267 vote. That amendment was offered by Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services seapower subcommittee, whose states house shipyards that build the subs.
Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan had pushed back on that proposal in a letter to House appropriators on Monday.
Such a move, Shanahan argued, would require the Navy over several years to take $6 billion dollars away from other vital shipbuilding programs.
The House defense spending bill now must be reconciled with the Senate’s version, which was advanced by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The measure will be taken up after the July 4th break.
The House’s budget amount includes a 15,600 troop increase across the military, and a 2.6 percent pay raise for service members beginning in January.
In addition, the bill would provide $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 fighter jets – 16 more jets than the administration requested and four more than Senate appropriators want – as well as $22.7 billion for 12 new Navy ships, and $145.7 billion for equipment purchases and upgrades.
House lawmakers had inserted several amendments into the bill leading up to the vote, including a provision to add $10 million to aid in bringing Korea War remains from North Korea to the United States, and a proposal to block the Pentagon from business with Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei.
The House last month approved a similar provision to the ZTE amendment in its fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and the Pentagon already bans the ZTE and Huawei products from its base stores.