SPONSORED:

House panel approves defense bill with border wall limits, Confederate base provision

House panel approves defense bill with border wall limits, Confederate base provision
© Getty Images

A House committee has approved a $694.6 billion defense spending bill that includes money for the Army to change Confederate base names and that seeks to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE’s use of Pentagon funds for his border wall.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced its fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill in a party-line vote of 30-22 on Tuesday.

The Pentagon spending bill would cover $626.2 billion in base budget funding and $68.4 billion in a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

ADVERTISEMENT

The money would go toward a 3 percent pay raise for troops, 91 F-35 fighter jets, nine new Navy ships and $758 million to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on subcontractors in the defense industrial base, among other big-ticket items.

Republicans, who say the bill includes much they support that would protect the United States, took issue with several provisions aimed at stopping Trump from using Pentagon funding for the border wall.

“While this is a very strong bill, there are numerous provisions, like the prohibition on funding for the southwest border wall construction and limitations on DoD’s general and special transfer authorities, that will draw a veto threat from the administration,” said Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel.

The bill would broadly prohibit the use of Pentagon funding for a barrier on the southern border, as well as cap the amount of money the Pentagon can transfer between accounts at $1.9 billion.

It would also require the Pentagon to put back into its original accounts money it shuffled around for the wall earlier this year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats argued the provisions are necessary after the Pentagon eroded Congress’ trust by transferring money for wall construction without congressional approval.

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), the chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said the Pentagon’s actions have “irreparably harmed the department’s credibility with the committee.”

“The sense of entitlement in these actions is galling, and I hope that at some point the department will have the leadership in place who recognize Congress’ constitutional prerogative and restore trust to the appropriations process,” Visclosky added.

An amendment offered Tuesday by Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it House rebuffs GOP lawmaker's effort to remove references to Democrats in Capitol MORE (R-Md.) to take out the prohibition on border wall funding, as well as a ban on troop deployments to the border unless another government agency reimburses the Pentagon, failed 21-31. Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Texas), who is retiring after his current term, was the only Republican “no” vote.

Also in this year’s defense spending bill is $1 million set aside in the Army’s operations and maintenance account to pay to change the names of bases and other property with Confederate monikers.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Army has 10 bases named after Confederate military officers. The issue of renaming them has emerged as a battle between Congress and Trump after the president publicly rebuked the Army for considering doing so and threatened to veto the defense policy bill if it includes a renaming requirement.

At Tuesday’s markup, the Appropriations Committee also approved amendments from Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Top contender for Biden Defense chief would be historic pick Overnight Defense: 5 US service members killed in international peacekeeping helicopter crash in Egypt | Progressives warn Biden against Defense nominee with contractor ties | Trump executive order to ban investment in Chinese military-linked companies MORE (D-Calif.) to repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF). The panel also approved an amendment from Lee to block funding for military action against Iran.

The committee has approved Lee’s repeal of the 2001 AUMF in other recent years, but the amendment has not survived negotiations to make it into final spending bills signed into law.