House moves to begin negotiations with Senate on $675 billion defense spending bill

House moves to begin negotiations with Senate on $675 billion defense spending bill
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The House on Tuesday moved to begin negotiations with the Senate on a Pentagon spending bill, which the upper chamber paired with a domestic appropriations measure.

In its first day back from August recess, the House approved by voice vote a motion to go to conference with the Senate on the $675 billion defense appropriations bill.

Lawmakers are hoping to approve a final measure by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, an accomplishment that would mark the first time in nine years that the Defense Department is funded on time.

But several complicating factors stand in the way. Congress face a time crunch for negotiations; both chambers plan to be in session for only 11 days between now and October.

Additionally, in order to gain bipartisan support by passing a defense spending bill alongside a domestic spending measure, the Senate paired its Pentagon bill with the appropriations measure for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. The Senate passed the combined $854 billion spending bill on an 85-7 vote last month.

Senators on both sides of the aisle have said they want to keep the two bills together, a move that would could complicate bicameral negotiations on final legislation. The House has yet to pass its own related domestic spending bill, which in the past has been a lightning rod for partisan issues.

Even if lawmakers get a deal on these and the other seven spending bills they’ve passed so far, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE has threatened to shut down the government if he does not get funding for his proposed wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Congressional leaders, though, are hoping to postpone that fight until after the November midterm elections, and they're meeting with Trump on Wednesday in their ongoing effort to persuade him to do the same.

The House’s defense spending bill, which passed the chamber 359-49 in June, would provide the Pentagon $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding and $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

The money would pay for an increase of 15,600 troops across the military, matching the administration's request. The Senate bill, by contrast, would add 6,961 active-duty troops.

Both the House and the Senate measures would fund the 2.6 percent pay raise for troops requested by the administration and authorized by the annual defense policy bill.

The House bill would also provide $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 fighter jets, or 16 more jets than the administration requested and four more than the Senate bill would fund.

Additionally, the House bill would allocate $22.7 billion for a dozen new Navy ships -- two more than administration requested and one less than in the Senate bill. The two extra ships in the House bill are littoral combat ships, which Congress continues to support buying despite the Navy’s plan to transition away from them so that shipyards keep working and keep pace with future orders.