The House passed its version of the FY17 Defense Appropriations Bill, and the Senate passed its version of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act.
The House defense appropriations bill is noteworthy for its redistribution of $18 billion from OCO funds to the base budget. The Obama administration has openly opposed this measure, and the president has threatened a veto. The other problem facing the House bill is that the corresponding Senate defense plan, only reflected in the NDAA so far, does not follow this same tactic, setting up a challenging conference scenario.
On Friday, the House floor was overwhelmed with debate on numerous amendments to the bill. Of note were two amendments related to Guantanamo, one that prohibits the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. facilities and another that bans federal funds from investigating the possibility of building a new facility for Guantanamo detainees in the U.S.
Up next for the House are consideration of appropriations bills for Financial Services and General Government and VA/MILCON.
House and Senate Defense Legislation:
The Senate passed its NDAA bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously said he wanted done before the appropriations bill. The NDAA followed the SASC subcommittee mark, which aligned with the president’s original budget request. The bill stands out by including for the first time in U.S. history a provision to include women in the draft. Another standout was the failure of John McCain’s amendment to add an additional $18 billion to overall defense spending. Although the measure failed, Senator Lindsey Graham and other supporters have expressed their intent to continue the push for high spending levels during appropriations considerations.
Movement of Senate defense appropriations to the Senate floor had been anticipated last week, prior to Senate Democrats taking control of the floor for much of a day to express lingering concerns over Congressional inaction on revised gun laws. Senate defense appropriations should proceed to floor action this week.
The continued disconnect between House and Senate defense spending policy for FY17, the upcoming presidential conventions, and the political turmoil in the aftermath of the tragic events in Orlando bode for slow progress on the appropriations schedule. It is unlikely we will see any of these bills proceed to conference prior to the July break for the presidential conventions.
In other news, the restoration project on the Capitol Dome is moving along at good speed. The scaffolding has moved down to the base of the dome, and the whole project is expected to be completed by the January Presidential Inauguration.