By Christopher J. Castelli
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has introduced a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown and continue funding programs and services at the current, post-sequestration annual rate until Dec. 15.
The bill provides funding at a rate of $986.3 billion — slightly below the current, post-sequestration level. In a statement, Rogers called it a “temporary measure to keep the lights on in government” until Congress can approve appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. “Our country desperately needs a long-term budget solution that ends the draconian cuts put into place by sequestration, and that provides for a responsible, sustainable, and attainable federal budget,” he said. “It is my hope that this stopgap legislation will provide time for all sides to come together to reach this essential goal.”
“It’s a huge deal,” said Russell Rumbaugh, the director of the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program. “For the first time, House Republicans are openly voting to cut defense to post-sequester funding levels. The CR explicitly says the sequester order is in effect, and it does not rebalance between defense and non-defense.”
“The Republican majority is acknowledging it is no longer the defender of defense spending,” said Rumbaugh, formerly a defense analyst on the Senate Budget committee and a military legislative assistant for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN). House Republicans “may argue it’s temporary, but passing this bill would be an on-the-record endorsement of base defense spending at less than $500 billion,” he added.
Nothing in the bill suggests DOD would get any extra flexibility compared to previous continuing resolutions, Rumbaugh said. “In fact, it’s got all the standard boilerplate language: no new starts and no multiyears.”
The CR would temporarily reauthorize the Pentagon’s Section 1206 security assistance program, which would have expired because Congress has not yet approved a defense authorization bill, “but that’s not flexibility, just a specific program,” Rumbaugh said. The bill also includes a provision to continue funding for “pandemic flu preparedness and chemical or biological attack response efforts,” Rogers’ office noted in a statement.
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