WASHINGTON — A U.S. House-passed federal spending measure that would fund the Pentagon and the rest of the government for the remainder of the year contains $6.4 billion in special interest items not requested by the Defense Department, Sen. John McCain said Tuesday.
The Arizona Republican said he has identified at least 59 programs that received $6.4 billion in funds not requested by the department or included in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
These “defense dollars for research-and-development earmarks and special interest set-asides” were passed by the full House last week, McCain said. Congress has not passed a 2013 defense appropriations bill, in part, due to partisan disagreements over how to lower the U.S. deficit.
“[D]oing business like this undermines the department’s ability to plan, resource and execute its programs and activities,” McCain said at a conference sponsored by Credit Suisse and McAleese and Associates. “Over time, what the taxpayers see is a perpetual cycle of incompetence and inefficiency.
“The most significant thing that Congress can do to help the department effectively manage its programs and activities is to restore funding stability,” he said.
Last week, House Republicans unveiled a governmentwide funding measure that would fund the Pentagon in 2013 at higher levels than it requested. DoD is also facing a $46 billion budget cut — known as sequestration — which is not addressed by the House bill.
McCain said there are numerous pet projects in the bill. These include $120 million for a public regional health laboratory and civilian wastewater improvements in Guam “even though the Armed Services Committee in the House and the Senate explicitly prohibited this funding.”
The bill also includes $567 million for unrequested medical research and $100 million for algae research in Hawaii, he said.
“If these provisions are enacted, we would effectively be financing special interest pork with defense budget cuts that the president’s top military advisers decried for months as ‘catastrophic and devastating,’” McCain said. “That’s an outcome that would likely never have resulted if we had done things under the regular order.”
McCain told reporters later on Capitol Hill that he and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., are pushing Senate leaders to delay a floor vote on the chamber's CR. The duo wants more time to continue scrubbing both the House and Senate versions in a search for more items they might deem questionable.