Senate passes defense spending 'minibus'

By Tony Bertuca / September 18, 2018 at 1:13 PM

The Senate voted today 93-7 to pass a final fiscal year 2019 appropriations "minibus" that includes $675 billion for defense.

If the House, which returns to session next week, can pass the bill and send it to the president for his signature before the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, it will be the first time in recent memory that the Defense Department has received an on-time appropriation.

The $857 billion minibus also includes funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies.

The defense portion of the bill includes funding increases for several big-ticket weapons programs including 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 16 more than the Pentagon's request, and three Littoral Combat Ships, two beyond the FY-19 request.

Additionally, the bill includes a stopgap continuing resolution to fund other agencies -- the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and others -- not included in current appropriations bills. Staffers have observed that attaching the CR to the defense minibus would make it more painful for President Trump to veto, if he is so inclined. Trump has demanded that any spending bill for DHS include funds for a southern border wall. The CR effectively punts the argument until after the November midterm elections.

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