By JOHN T. BENNETT
WASHINGTON — UPDATED: Shortly after this story was posted, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbra Mikulski’s office tweeted this: “Sen. Appropriations Approps will take up @DeptofDefense #FY15 funding bill July 17 w return of former committee Chairman @SenThadCochran”
A US Senate subcommittee has yet to lock in a date on which it will take up its 2015 Pentagon spending bill, a senior aide says.
Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said last month he intends to mark up the defense appropriations bill the first full week of July. But he has not been more specific.
A committee aide suggested that target could slip to later in the month.
“I would bet in July but I don’t have a date yet for you,” the aide told CongressWatch.
Sources call it a long shot that the upper chamber’s defense spending bill ever will arrive on the floor, given the Senate’s years-long inability to pass annual spending bills. What’s more likely, sources say, is another government-wide spending bill that might include a full-year Pentagon appropriations bill that would be preconferenced with House appropriators.
The House last week green-lighted a version of the legislation that would give the Defense Department $570.4 billion in 2015.
The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee proposes a $491 billion base Pentagon budget and a $79.4 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO), or war-funding, section.
The House-passed version adds monies for fighter jets, electronic-attack planes and maintains 11 aircraft carriers.
That $491 billion figure is $5 billion lower than the Pentagon’s $496 billion base budget request. When factoring in another $5 billion in military construction, which the panel does not oversee, the HAC-D’s portion of the base budget roughly matches the Pentagon’s request.
Durbin has signaled he is inclined to also block Pentagon-proposed cost-cutting measures, like an Air Force plan to retire the A-10 attack plane fleet.
Subcommittee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CongressWatch this week that A-10 proponents are “getting close” to a budgetary offset that would pay for the fleet’s operations and maintenance costs next year.