Sen. Richard Durbin, right, speaks with Sen. Charles Schumer following a meeting with President Barack Obama on Capitol Hill in July. Durbin is 'working on' a way to secure passage of a full 2014 Pentagon appropriations bill. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — A Senate leader is looking for a way to secure passage of a full 2014 Pentagon appropriations bill.
Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat and chairman of its Appropriations defense subcommittee, said he believes Congress could pass a full appropriations bill.
The full Appropriations Committee earlier this year passed a $594 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes a $516.4 billion base budget and $77.8 billion for America’s wars.
Many on Capitol Hill and budget watchers in Washington are predicting Congress will fail to pass any annual spending bills amid years-old partisan ill will and looming fights over the nation’s borrowing limit and Obamacare.
But Durbin was hopeful when asked whether he believes Congress will eventually pass and send to the president a full 2014 Pentagon appropriations bill.
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Durbin said. “I’m working on it.”
His comment should raise hopes for a full-year spending bill in the Pentagon and among US defense firms. Defense and industry officials prefer full-year spending bills because the alternative is a continuing resolution (CR). Such funding bills provide monies at previous year levels and leave the Pentagon unable to do things like start new programs, enter into multi-year contracts and fire up new production lines.
Durbin is the second senior defense appropriator in a week to give the defense sector hope about a full 2014 appropriations bill.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va., a senior House Appropriations defense subcommittee member, told Defense News last week that a governmentwide CR spanning 2014 likely will ride through both chambers on a full Pentagon spending measure.
Analysts say that likely will happen early next year, after Congress passes several temporary CRs for the Defense Department and all federal agencies, while also fighting over the nation’s debt, health care, immigration reform and trying to reach a sequester-addressing fiscal deal.