By JOHN T. BENNETT
WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee has yet to secure floor time for a Pentagon spending bill from lower chamber leaders, a senior House aide says.
The committee approved its version of the 2014 defense appropriations bill on June 12, and congressional sources indicated then the legislation would hit the House floor the week of June 17. But House leaders opted instead to move other legislation.
The defense spending bill now stands in legislative limbo. But, since it is considered must-pass legislation in the lower chamber, it is expected to hit the House floor before this fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
“We don’t know” when the defense bill might be placed on the House floor schedule, the senior House aide told Defense News.
The bill passed the committee with a mix of Republican and Democratic support. It proposes $512.5 billion in base military spending, $3.4 billion less than the Obama administration is requesting. It also includes an $85.8 billion war-funding section that would be $1.5 billion larger than the Pentagon is seeking.
“This bill makes the hard choices to keep our nation safe, secure, and constantly prepared for whatever threats we may face. It provides funding to advance our missions abroad, to prepare and equip our troops, and to ensure the effectiveness of the world’s greatest military,” House Appropriation Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky, said in a statement shortly after the panel approved it.
But, during a morning-long mark up session, Democrats panned the bill’s funding levels.
Panel Ranking Member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., opened the June 12 mark up by calling the committee’s $512.5 billion 2014 defense appropriations bill “good” — but only “if considered on its own merits.” Lowey and other Democrats want the legislation to reflect spending caps set in August 2011.
They also hit the Republicans for crafting a defense spending bill that ignores the next round of defense sequestration cuts, set to reduce the Pentagon’s 2014 budget by about $50 billion this fall. If enacted without proposing how to get the defense budget under the caps, DoD officials would simply again trim all non-exempt accounts by about 9 percent.
Democratic Reps. Jose Serrano of New York and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut criticized the GOP bill’s funding level and approach, which they said proposes to offset some defense cuts by instead trimming domestic programs.
Amendments on the funding levels and related to its approach to fund the Pentagon by slashing domestic program are possible when the legislation hits the House floor.
“Obviously it’s ready to go,” the senior House aide said. “Just waiting for [House majority] leader’s office to schedule floor time.”