Advancing appropriations bills was supposed to be easier this year, after lawmakers reached a two-year budget deal on topline spending levels covering fiscal 2018 and 2019 in February. But defense hawks understandably are anxious that the military once again will be forced to operate under a continuing resolution (CR) when FY 2019 begins. Both chambers have passed a military construction spending bill for next year, but the conference committee charged with reconciling the competing versions already has cancelled a meeting due to a dispute over funding for veterans private medical care.
Also uncertain is the fate of the FY 2019 defense spending bill. The House has approved its version but it is not clear when the Senate will bring its counterpart to the floor. An overriding concern is that if the Senate fails to take up the defense spending measure by the end of the summer, the matter may be put off until after the midterm elections in November, or later, reports Defense News.
“Hopefully that gets done in that period of time, but the uncertainly leads folks to think the alternative is a continuing resolution,” said Rep. Rob Wittman (Va.). “My concern is the continuing resolution would go through to the next Congress. And if it doesn’t, a lame duck session, which comes with its own set of issues,” he said.
Amid those fears, the House on Tuesday passed separate resolutions from three Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Mike Gallagher (Wis.) and Wittman — underlining the harm that results from relying on CRs. “The House has now voted to reject doing further damage this fall and to fully fund our military on time for the first time in a decade. To do anything less is a clear breach of faith with our troops and an abdication of Congress’s responsibility under the Constitution,” House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a written statement afterward.