House appropriators pass defense spending bill

By Tony Bertuca / May 21, 2019 at 4:27 PM

The House Appropriations Committee voted 30-22 today to pass the fiscal year 2020 defense spending bill.

Lawmakers from both parties, however, lamented that the bill is being considered in the House in the absence of a broader budget agreement to lift spending caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) said the BCA has been an "albatross" around the neck of the committee for years.

Senate leaders said today, however, that a morning meeting with White House officials gave them cause to be optimistic that a two-year deal could be reached.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said they would decline to support the defense spending bill at this time because it is not part of a broader budget agreement.

"We aren't making spending decisions based on reality," said House Appropriations defense subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Calvert (R-CA).

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) also said she opposed the bill’s restrictions on the Defense Department's budgetary reprogramming authority, warning that it could have "unintended consequences."

The Democratic majority said they put the restrictions in place because the Defense Department overturned decades of precedent by transferring funding to build border barriers without the approval of Congress.

The bill sets the limit for DOD’s total annual reprogramming authority at $1 billion, compared to the $5 billion requested for FY-20 and the current level of $4 billion. The bill also limits annual OCO reprogramming to $500 million, compared to $4.5 billion in the budget request and the current level of $2 billion.

The bill also includes amendments that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and prohibit the United States from cooperating with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Additionally, the bill includes an amendment that would provide $242 million in disaster aid for military bases damaged by natural disasters.