By Pete Kasperowicz
The House on Wednesday approved a Republican amendment to a 2014 spending bill that would cut $3.5 billion from the Defense Department’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, most of which is used to fund military operations in Afghanistan.
The bill under consideration would fund the OCO account at $86 billion. But Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said that is billions more than what the Obama administration asked for.
“The amendment simply seeks to take the OCO budget back down to what the Pentagon asked for,” he said in Tuesday night debate.
“The Pentagon asked for roughly $81 billion,” he said. “The committee saw fit to give them $86 billion, and we think maybe letting the Pentagon decide how much the Pentagon needs for OCO is probably a good basis for discussion, and it is the basis for this discussion.”
Instead of cutting $5 billion, Mulvaney said his amendment would leave an extra $1.5 billion that the bill would give to the National Guard. That made for a $3.5 billion cut.
House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed with Mulvaney, and cosponsored the amendment. “There’s no reason we should be throwing money into the war accounts that don’t belong there simply as an accounting scheme to avoid the cap,” he said.
The amendment faced GOP opposition on Tuesday night, from Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who said the government has been shown to underestimate the money it needs for the OCO account.
“[D]espite having a higher overseas contingency allocation for fiscal year 2013 of $87 billion, budget execution during fiscal year 2013 has proven that that request was understated by as much as $10 billion,” he noted.
But most members sided with Mulvaney, as the House passed his language in a narrow 215-206 vote. The language won the support of 38 Republicans and 177 Democrats.
Mulvaney’s proposal was one of a handful that got votes Wednesday afternoon, after which members were expected to debate the last dozen or so and pass the entire bill.
Other amendments getting roll call votes were from:
— Walter Jones (R-N.C.), prohibiting the use of funds to carry out activities under the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership. Failed 177-246.
— Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), prohibiting funding to pay for fines assessed against any military installation by the California Air Resources Board. Passed 235-188.
— Steve Stockman (R-Texas), prohibiting participation by the People’s Republic of China in joint U.S. military exercises. Failed 137-286.
— Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), prohibiting the use of funds for the transfer or release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen. Passed 238-185.
— Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), preventing the retirement or transfer of C-23 aircraft and designating $34 million for the sustainment of these aircraft in a viable state. Passed 264-154.