House Armed Services Committee passes $733B defense authorization bill 

By Tony Bertuca / June 13, 2019 at 7:58 AM

The House Armed Services Committee early this morning voted 33-24 to approve its version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill, with all but two Republicans voting “no.”

The marathon committee mark-up, which began 10 a.m. Wednesday and ended shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday, dealt several partisan defeats to Republicans, including a "no" vote on an amendment from Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to boost the $733 billion defense topline by $17 billion.

Thornberry wanted the committee’s final bill to reflect the funding level approved by the GOP-led Senate Armed Services Committee and sought by the White House.

Only one Democrat -- Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) -- voted for Thornberry’s amendment.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said the Pentagon can get by with less funding and will be forced to become more efficient.

He released a statement noting that Thornberry sought to overturn years of precedent and pass his amendment without first finding a $17 billion offset to pay for it.

“To authorize spending beyond the guidelines provided by the House is like playing with monopoly money, making the HASC and its recommendations irrelevant. Abandoning our offset tradition and authorizing an additional $17 billion beyond the topline mocks our men and women in uniform, who the minority claims to support,” Smith said. “This money simply doesn’t exist.”

The only Republicans to vote for the bill were Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Don Bacon (R-NE).

Thornberry, meanwhile, released a statement saying the bill has much to praise, but takes the military “backwards” in several areas. Along with the topline, Republicans also opposed provisions that would cut funding for nuclear weapons programs.

“There were too many problematic provisions in the bill for most Republicans on the committee to overlook,” he said. “I am hopeful that as the bill proceeds, it will improve and earn my support."

In his statement, Smith said the bill is mostly a bipartisan product.

“For years, Democrats sat in the minority and had to live with certain Republican provisions in previous iterations of the [bill],” Smith said. “But the fact remains, Democrats are now in the majority, and while we can all agree on more than 95 percent of this year’s [bill], the bill will inevitably reflect Democratic values.”

There is still a long road ahead for the bill. Ultimately, the final topline will have to align not only with the Senate, but with a bipartisan budget agreement needed to lift spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.