WASHINGTON — The House voted Tuesday to approve a stand-alone defense appropriations bill, but it is likely to fail in the Senate.
With the vote, House GOP leadership made good on a promise to Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee and House Freedom Caucus members, in exchange for their vote on the last funding patch.
The House passed the bill ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night, in which he is expected to tout the need for increased spending on defense.
The vote was 250-166, with 23 Democrats joining Republicans to pass the bill, and four Republicans voting against it.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Mike Rounds, R-S.D., struck a deal with Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to permit a Senate vote at some future date, according to a report in Roll Call. Some pro-defense lawmakers feel passing the bill would help create a breakthrough in stagnating budget negotiations.
“The action the House is doing, I want to make sure they do it, because that will make our job easier,” the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said ahead of the vote. “I promise you the president will sign it. I’ve talked to him about that.”
Democrats and Republicans remain deadlocked over top-line numbers for an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2018, overdue since Sept. 30. Democrats, in return for their help getting to the 60 Senate votes needed to lift statutory spending caps, have demanded any increase for defense be matched on the non-defense side.
Although lawmakers managed to avert a government shutdown before skipping town for the holidays, they will face a mess when they return in January.
While Senate Democrats are signaling the bill will not win their support, the vote would allow House Republicans one more chance to accuse them of playing politics with the military.
Federal government funding, meanwhile, runs out Feb. 8 when the fourth and latest continuing resolution to fund the federal government expires.
The bill cleared the House Rules Committee Monday night, where Republicans argued that absent a 2018 budget deal, the troops need funding now. Democrats argued that Congress must cut a larger spending deal, as repeated stopgap funding damages the military and let govern remain unfunded.
“What we need most though is a bipartisan agreement to raise spending caps for defense and non-defense bills,” Slaughter said.
“The approach being taken by the majority today falls woefully short in providing our agencies with the funding certainty they need – we must do better. Let’s work together to raise the caps and address these priorities so our nation can finally stop governing from one self-inflicted crisis to the next.”
The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, argued the need to prioritize national security.
“We are almost four months into fiscal year 2018 and our troops still don’t have their funding,” Granger said. “It is time that the Congress fulfills its responsibility to fund our troops at the levels needed. It is time to lift the budget caps and enact a full-year defense appropriations act so that our military can begin to rebuild.”
The House bill would allocate $659.2 billion to DoD, with $584 billion in base budget funding and $75.1 billion for the wartime Overseas Contingency Operations account. A similar bill has passed the House before, but this would add $1.2 billion in OCO for the Afghanistan fight.
The bill represents $28 billion more than the president’s request and more than $60 billion above last year’s levels. When combined with more than $4 billion in emergency defense funding, the bill roughly matches the funding level in the 2018 defense policy bill.