Conference committee agrees to defense spending 'minibus'

By Tony Bertuca  
September 13, 2018 at 6:50 PM

House and Senate conferees have agreed on a massive omnibus spending bill that includes $675 billion for defense.

The defense spending measure is attached to appropriations for the departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services and other related agencies.

"With the changing global dynamics and ever-growing threats, it is absolutely imperative that our military is properly trained, equipped, and fully supported," a summary released by the House Appropriations Committee reads. "It is also critically important to provide our men and women in uniform with the funding and resources they need to execute their missions, assist and protect our allies around the world, provide for their families, and ensure the current and future security of our nation. This legislation does all of this by including robust funding for our troops, the defense programs and activities necessary to accomplish our national goals and ideals, and to continue to rebuild our military."

If Congress can pass a final defense appropriations package before the beginning of fiscal year 2019 on Oct. 1, it will be the first time in recent memory. If lawmakers cannot meet the deadline, they must either pass a stopgap continuing resolution or face a government shutdown.

Though several lawmakers said during a conference committee hearing today they were optimistic the minibus would pass and be sent to President Trump, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said conferees would seek a stopgap CR to fund parts of the government until Dec. 7. A staffer said the CR is not being sought for defense, but for agencies not included in any existing “minibus” packages.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has begun each of the past nine fiscal years on a CR that locks spending at previous-year levels and prohibits the start of new programs or production increases for weapon systems.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said pairing the defense and non-defense spending bills was the "lynchpin" of a strategy he hatched with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the committee's ranking Democrat, to "return to regular order."

"I think we've come a long way and I'd like to finish the job," he said.

Frelinghuysen said today is the first time since 2007 the defense bill has been addressed by a conference committee.

Leahy, who noted the dysfunction of recent years, said being part of today's conference committee felt "like old times."

Watch Inside Defense for detailed breakdowns of the final bill.