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Democrats: GOP Charges of 'Late' War-Funding Plan are 'Ridiculous'

Jul. 1, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Senators Reed And Heller Discuss Unemployment Insu
US Sen. Jack Reed defended the administration against Republican criticism of delays in submitting its war-funding request. (T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — Democrats are defending the Obama administration for submitting a war-funding request nearly four months after sending Congress its base military spending plan.

The White House submitted its 2015 Pentagon spending blueprint in early March, but did not send along an overseas contingency operations (OCO) request because President Barack Obama had yet to settle on an Afghanistan withdrawal and troop-level plan.

In its place, White House and Pentagon officials asked lawmakers to insert a $79.4 billion “placeholder” for operations in Afghanistan, other overseas military actions and funds to buy new weapons. Lawmakers in both parties grumbled, but three of the four congressional defense panels included that figure in their Pentagon authorization and appropriations bills.

Last Thursday, the White House and Pentagon finally sent lawmakers a $58.6 billion OCO plan. And Republican lawmakers took one last opportunity to point out it arrived 114 days after the base Pentagon request.

“This $60 billion budget request for overseas operations is nearly five months late and cries out for oversight,” House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., told CongressWatch in a Thursday statement.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., pulled the rhetorical jujitsu move of criticizing the White House for both being late and rushing an incomplete plan to the Hill.

“The administration delayed this proposal for over four months,” McKeon said in a statement, “and now appears to be in a rush to deliver it to the Hill with little detail on how the department would spend the money.”

Democratic members and aides reject such critiques.

“This is a ridiculous gripe. The administration has been in a tough spot. We still don’t have a bilateral security agreement” with Afghan leaders, one senior House Democratic aide told CongressWatch.

“We don’t know who the next president of Afghanistan will be,” the senior aide said. “We don’t know if they will change their position on the BSA. A lot of things are in flux.”

CongressWatch asked Senate Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., before Congress left for its July 4 recess if he thinks the White House has been playing politics by avoiding three of four committee reviews of its OCO request while they built their 2015 defense bills.

Reed replied: “No. Not at all.” ■


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