House Republicans Eye Defense Spending Boost, Complicating Plan To Avoid Second Shutdown


House Republican leaders are proposing a long-term boost to military funding in a bill that would give other federal agencies only a short-term extension of current spending levels, a move that stands to heighten tension with Democrats and complicate plans to keep the government open past Thursday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pitched the plan to his GOP colleagues in a closed-door meeting Monday. The bill, set for a vote on Tuesday, would increase Pentagon funding by about $30 billion, to $584 billion, breaking existing spending caps as well as making funding available through September. The rest of the government would continue to be funded at 2017 levels through March 23.

The spending bill would also provide two years of funding for the federal community health center program, which lapsed last year and is at risk of running out of spending authority, and would also extend several other programs.

While House GOP leaders are confident the bill will pass their chamber with Republican votes, it is likely to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

Democrats have refused to sign on to any defense spending increase absent an agreement to bolster non-defense spending alongside it. The budget agreement has also been stalled by unrelated policy disputes, primarily over immigration.

“We want to fund defense, absolutely, but we also want to fund programs that help the middle class, like education, like infrastructure, like scientific research,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday. “We’re standing up and saying we must do both. That’s how this body works.”

The House’s move is calibrated to both appease conservative lawmakers who have become increasingly frustrated at the string of temporary spending measures and to also nudge senators to boost defense funding.

“It’s time for the Senate to take action,” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

Government funding is set to run out Thursday at midnight, and though there were few fears of another shutdown as lawmakers scrambled Monday, the House maneuver stands to inject new uncertainty into the process.

The House is set to vote Tuesday on its spending bill, sending it to the Senate, then recess for the week so Democrats can head to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for their yearly policy retreat. But with the Senate unlikely to swallow the House bill, lawmakers could be forced to return to Washington to vote again before the deadline.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis



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