The Senate early Friday morning narrowly passed a federal fiscal 2016 budget plan that would leave defense spending caps in place but use temporary war funds to plus up the Pentagon's funding for next year.
The move comes on the heels of a similar plan from House lawmakers, signaling Congress' preference to leave the much-reviled sequestration rules in place for next year but also to find some way to give fiscal relief to the military.
Republicans touted the passage of the budget resolutions as a return to the normal business in a Congress that has been tangled in political gridlock for years
But neither legislative move has the force of law behind it, and Pentagon officials have already signaled their distaste for the plan.
As the Senate measure was being debated Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said proposals to "shoehorn" temporary money into the Pentagon's accounts "would fail to solve (our) problems, while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning,"
The Senate budget resolution — which passed 52-46 after roughly 15 hours of amendments debate — sets a defense base budget of $523 billion, but adds $89 billion in overseas contingency funds to the Pentagon's available funds.
That would bring total defense spending in fiscal 2016 to roughly the same level as the target desired by White House and senior military officials, but without changing sequestration rules mandating spending caps across the government.
House lawmakers adopted a similar budget resolution two days earlier, with $96 billion in boosted war funds and no funding offset elsewhere.
Since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011 — which forced mandatory reductions evenly across for both defense and nondefense programs — military backers in Congress have been looking for ways to boost defense spending while keeping in place other domestic funding curbs.
But Democrats have blocked those initiatives, pushing instead for tax hikes or other new revenues in lieu of forcing the brunt of savings on public safety net programs.
With both the Senate and House in Republican control now, the budget resolutions appear to be their solution to get around that fight.
But the separate resolutions still need to go through conference committees to reach compromise language, and are nonbinding.
Lawmakers will have to pass specific appropriations bills before funding is finalized, and that will require the signature of the president, who has threatened a veto on any budget plan that doesn't repeal sequestration.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.