The Senate plans to begin consideration of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill Wednesday during a debate that could take more than a week.
On Tuesday, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member on Senate Armed Services, said Democrats likely would not block consideration of the annual policy bill over its reliance on DOD’s overseas contingency operations account (OCO) to evade the statutory spending caps. Democrats, along with the White House, are opposed to the maneuver, which would shield the Pentagon’s budget from the spending limits but offer no relief for domestic agencies.
The measure, S. 1376, authorizes DOD to spend $38 billion of funds added to its OCO account for items traditionally funded in its base budget. And while Democrats aren’t expected to stop the bill from advancing, during debate the party almost certainly will attack the GOP’s strategy of stashing tens of billions of dollars in the department’s war account that were not requested by the Pentagon.
“Quite frankly, the bill has great merit. But the real problem — I think it’s a very significant problem — is its reliance on OCO,” Reed said Tuesday, reported CQ.
Reed said he expects a lengthy amendment process on the legislation. The debate should conclude by late next week, according to Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.). Conference negotiations with the House possibly could finish by the end of the month, he added.
If the Senate makes it to a final vote on the legislation, it would mark the first time since 2012.