First published at 2:01 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The White House’s federal budget landed on Capitol Hill with a thud on Tuesday, and key Republicans in Congress lined up early to bash it.
Reaction to Pentagon’s $523.9 billion base budget request for the Pentagon, and $58.8 billion wartime budget, comes amid a brewing fight to rewrite the 2017 budget in line with, or spite of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, depending on whom you ask.
Fiscal hawks want to plus-up defense through the wartime overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which Democrats would be expected to seek to match in non-defense spending, while some lawmakers on the GOP’s right flank want to restore budget caps, a politically tricky maneuver that would in effect cut $30 billion from the budget.
House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and other Republicans in Congress have argued the defense budget should be raised as much as $23 billion via an increase in OCO funding based on threats facing the US and other developments since the budget deal was struck in 2015. They claim the budget deal permits such a hike, though there are hints key Democrats disagree.
"I am disappointed that this request does not adhere to the budget agreement made just last fall,” Thornberry said in a statement Tuesday. “Last year, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which establishes a minimum level of funding for our military. I hoped such an agreement would provide some budget stability and begin to rebuild our military. Unfortunately, this Administration continues to play budgetary games with our country’s security and diminishes what credibility it had left."
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters Tuesday he would “raise hell” to increase the Pentagon budget and invoked the Islamic State-inspired attack on San Bernardino, Calif.
“I just think the numbers are wrong,” McCain said of the Pentagon budget. “It’s $17 billion short of last year, and in the intervening time, we’ve had attacks on the United States. When will these people wake up? There will be more attacks on the United States of America, this is not the time to be cutting defense spending.”
The SASC's ranking Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, lauded the president's proposal as a "solid blueprint to help grow our economy, expand opportunity, and keep Americans safe."
“It also proposes significant funds for readiness needs of our military and focuses on future threats," Reed said in a statement Tuesday. The President also commits needed resources for the fight against ISIS and the European Reassurance Initiative to counter Russia."
The HASC's ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith, of Washington, did not immediately wade deep into the debate.
“As Ranking Member of HASC, I know that the primary responsibility the House Armed Services Committee is to support our military with predictable funding that enables our Armed Services to provide for our national defense," Smith said in a statement Tuesday. "I want to fully understand the President’s budget proposal before making any decisions on overall funding levels or individual programs, and I welcome a debate about the appropriate funding for FY17 for the Department of Defense to ensure that our military has the resources that it needs.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed Republican efforts to upend the budget agreement, implying a new fight would risk an impasse and a government shutdown.
"They must be living in a time warp," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "We're already been through that. I don't think they want to close government again. The law's in effect and we're going to stick with what we did last December.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, in panning President Obama’s overall $4.23 trillion request to Congress as disconnected from the nation’s budgetary constraints, vowed to produce bills that abide by the budget caps eased by last year’s agreement — an apparent rebuke to his party’s staunchest fiscal hawks.
“But most importantly, they will be fiscally responsible, reflecting the needs of our federal government and the American people while protecting our financial future, Rogers, R-Ky., said of the bills in a statement.
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Md., hammered Obama for an overall $2.5 trillion budget increase, claiming the budget will raise taxes by $3.4 trillion over the next decade. Price said House Republicans will offer an alternative “to the president’s stale, big government policies,” that meets “the fiscal, economic and national security challenges of the 21st Century.”
“We will be presenting a positive vision for America’s future with a plan to strengthen our economy, rebuild confidence in our country, give our military the resources they need to carry out their missions, save and strengthen vital programs that will ensure health and retirement security for millions of Americans, and balance the budget. We refuse to accept the status quo,” Price said.