WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Wednesday took up a defense appropriations bill that proposes tens of billion of dollars in new spending for the Pentagon. The problem is it breaks budget caps set in law.
The House’s version of 2018 defense appropriations legislation includes added ships, jets and potentially $28.6 billion in flexible funding for emerging requirements. At $584.2 billion, with $73.9 billion overseas contingency operations, or OCO, it would exceed 2018 budget caps for defense by $63.5 billion.
Some lawmakers fear that with no clear path from GOP leaders to adhere to or lift the budget caps, it’s unclear whether Congress is headed toward sequestration budget cuts triggered when the caps are broken or some other scenario that would damage defense.
“It’s headed toward a colossal crackup,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Wednesday. “Understand that the legislation they have put forth is the most craven piece of legislation I have witnessed in 20 years.”
Smith, who has been railing against what he sees as defense budget dysfunction, ripped “hypocritical” House Republicans who want to be both pro-defense and fiscally conservative.
“They are passing a bill that will be null and void in order to both say, ‘I didn’t vote to lift the caps, and I did vote for more defense spending,’” Smith said. “This is an enormous waste of time, all because they don’t want to honestly address the issue. Which of these things are ultimately going to give?”
The House has taken up defense appropriations packaged in a four-bill, $790 billion “security bus” that also includes spending bills for energy and water, the legislative branch, military construction and Veterans Affairs.
Democrats have voiced opposition to the legislative vehicle, arguing it short-circuits debate on domestic priorities as well as its likely inclusion of funding for a border wall.