Debt and Spending Deal Includes $738 Billion for Defense. The Pentagon Has ‘No Complaints’
Amanda Macias / The Hill
(July 30, 2019) — WASHINGTON — Defense officials are rooting for the Senate to pass a massive two-year spending package this week, a measure that bumps up the Pentagon’s spending power to $738 billion.
Last week, the House passed a bill that sets discretionary spending at about $1.37 trillion in fiscal 2020 and slightly higher in fiscal 2021. The agreement also suspends the US borrowing limit for two years. The Senate is expected to approve the measure this week, and President Donald Trump has said he would sign it.
“Seven thirty-eight’s a good number,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said when he was asked about the measure. “And I think to the degree we have predictability, to the degree that we can avoid C.R.s, those things allow us to plan and make more efficient use of our dollars. So I’m good with those dollars.”
“No complaints,” Esper added.
In March, the Pentagon requested $718 billion in its fiscal 2020 budget, a $33 billion – or about 5% – increase over what Congress enacted for fiscal 2019.
The current measure, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Trump, would give the Pentagon a topline of $738 billion for fiscal year 2020. Congress has until October 1 to agree on the deal or negotiate a new one with the White House.
“We are moving in the right direction here in terms of investing in the force,” Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when asked by CNBC if the budget would be enough to equip and invest in service members.
“I would tell you with the precious money that Congress gives us, we have to be good stewards with it,” he added. “In any endeavor that we have we have to make sure that we are staying on the cutting edge of technology, to make sure that we can see those threats first and understand those threats first and act on those threats first and then we can finish decisively.”
House Passes Two-year Debt Ceiling and Budget Deal, Sending It to the Senate
(July 25, 2019) — The House on Thursday passed a bill to raise the US debt ceiling and set budget levels for two years, taking a step toward avoiding calamity that threatens to disrupt the economy.
The Democratic-held chamber approved the measure in a 284-149 vote. Democrats voted 219-16 in favor of the bill. Republicans opposed it by a 132-65 margin, even after President Donald Trump urged the House GOP to support it earlier Thursday. The one independent in the House also voted against the bill.
It sets discretionary spending at about $1.37 trillion in fiscal 2020 and slightly higher in fiscal 2021. The agreement suspends the US borrowing limit for two years.
The House vote sends the measure to the Senate, which is expected to pass it in the coming days and send it to Trump’s desk. The president is expected to sign it.
Congress hoped to lift the debt ceiling before September, when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned the US could run out of ways to pay its bills. That prospect risked debt default, which would rattle the US and global economies.
Passing the bill will also avoid sequester, automatic across-the-board spending cuts set to take place next year. Congress still has to pass separate appropriations bills to avoid a government shutdown before funding lapses at the end of September.
Both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders secured what they can point to as wins in the deal. It includes rough parity in spending hikes for defense and domestic, nondefense programs.
But some lawmakers and advocates for federal budget restraint slammed the deal as annual budget deficits are projected to top $1 trillion in the coming years. Republican tax cuts and spending increases backed by both parties have contributed to the widening deficits.
Earlier Thursday, Trump urged House Republicans to back the legislation. Some conservative GOP members criticized the deal in part because it permanently ends sequester.
“House Republicans should support the TWO YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT which greatly helps our Military and our Vets. I am totally with you!” the president tweeted.
His push did not appear to sway the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus. In an opinion piece in USA Today published Thursday afternoon, the group criticized the agreement.
The caucus called it “deeply flawed” and said Congress should work to “hammer out a budget agreement that responsibly cuts spending and sets the country on a track to fiscal solvency.”