Budget Agreement Should Put Authorization Bill Back on Track

The bipartisan budget deal, by raising the discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs, should provide the fix needed for President Obama to sign a fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill.

Obama’s primary objection to the defense measure he vetoed last week stemmed from its reliance on the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account which allowed the Pentagon to skirt the caps without providing equivalent budget relief for non-defense programs. On Tuesday the White House applauded the budget agreement, signaling that its concerns over the funding framework employed in the authorization bill likely were now moot.

The only question left is what path the authorization bill will take to becoming law. Democrats could support an override or lawmakers could revise the measure to reflect the new agreement, reported CQ. The authorization bill already includes language allowing a portion of the $38 billion allocated to the OCO account to be shifted to the department’s base budget if a deal were reached to lift the caps.

Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he wasn’t sure how the chamber’s Nov. 5 override would turn out now that the primary reason for Obama’s veto appears to have been addressed.

“It’s a little ironic to me that the president who vetoes the bill based on OCO to meet base requirements agrees to a deal where there is $8 billion of OCO to meet base requirements,” Thornberry said. Some of the boost in defense spending under the deal would come from an extra $8 billion included in the OCO account for defense. Another $8 billion added to that account would be allocated to foreign affairs.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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