WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain on Thursday voted against disaster relief legislation and an extension of the federal debt ceiling because he believes an attached budget extension will cause numerous problems for the Defense Department.
At issue is another portion of the spending measure that would extend the federal budget until mid-December, preventing a government shutdown at the end of September but locking the military into fiscal 2017 levels of spending for three additional months.
“I have come to this floor many times to talk about the harmful effects of continuing resolutions on our military,” McCain, R-Ariz., said in a pre-vote floor speech on Thursday. “Year after year we have lurched from one short-term fix to another, without doing the hard work of governing and budgeting.
“(Continuing resolutions) inflict great harm upon those Americans we are constitutionally obliged to provide for, and that’s our men and women in uniform.”
Defense leaders have long lamented Congress’ inability to pass full-year military budgets near the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1. In testimony before lawmakers, they say the practice inhibits long-term planning for new initiatives and equipment purchases, thereby driving up costs when those projects resume later.
But the latest budget extension, paired with disaster relief funding for the southern U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, easily passed the Senate Thursday afternoon despite those objections and similar ones from 16 other senators.
It now heads to the House, where lawmakers are expected to approve it on Friday. President Donald Trump has already said he will sign the measure into law.
Last month, when rumors of a three-month budget extension first surfaced, McCain and committee ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., requested information from the Defense Department on how a continuing resolution might hurt military operations, saying the tightened spending comes at a time of “diminished readiness, strained modernization, and increasing operations.”
That report was due back to the committee by Friday.
McCain said he supports both the disaster relief funding and a debt ceiling increase, just not as part of this legislation
“There are brave young men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places,” he said. “We must always ask ourselves, are we really doing all that we can to support them?
“There is no point in discussing our strategy for Afghanistan or North Korea or ISIS or any of the other myriad of threats we currently are facing if we’re simply going to fund the military through a continuing resolution.”