WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. House lawmaker warned Tuesday that if Congress fails this month to pass a full 2013 defense spending bill, there likely will be no other chance to do so this year.
“I think we have a limited window” to pass a full 2013 defense appropriations bill, House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said.
If lawmakers fail to do so, he said, it is almost certain that the Pentagon “will be living under a CR” until the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
House Republicans are touting their version of a 2013 continuing resolution (CR) and pressing the Senate to follow their lead, because the DoD appropriations bill it includes would give the Pentagon some desired fiscal flexibility. Being funded through a CR keeps federal departments running, but it also means those agencies are mostly unable to fully fund certain programs and accounts, and cannot shift funds within their budgets as needed.
Pro-defense GOP House members see their approach as the lone way to help Pentagon officials by removing such restrictions.
U.S. Strategic Command Chief Gen. Robert Kehler and U.S. Pacific Command Chief Adm. Samuel Locklear told Thornberry’s panel a full appropriations bill is preferable to another continuing resolution.
The House bill, which could come to a vote on the floor this week, proposes $518.1 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, which would be $2 billion larger than the Obama administration’s request. Notably, the House’s measure would shift funds to military accounts hit hardest by the sequester cuts, such as operations and maintenance coffers.
During remarks Tuesday morning on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered no clues as to how he intends to move forward on the CR issue.
Congress needs to pass something before March 27, or the federal government will shut down.