WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday will unveil a budget blueprint that funds the Pentagon at existing spending caps — but would grant the military more funding by inflating the war budget.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is set to roll out the Republican's 2016 federal spending plan. And, sources and reports say, he's aiming to appease multiple parts of his often-fractious caucus.
The Obama administration requested $561 billion for national defense, $38 billion above spending caps set etched in stone by the 2011 Budget Control Act. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, wants at least $566 billion. And Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., want $577 billion.
A House GOP aide issued a threat on Monday, telling CongressWatch a group of 70 pro-defense Republican members will "vote against any budget that comes in under $561 billion on defense."
Thornberry told reporters Monday that defense hawks have been in talks with Price for some time.
Reports began to emerge Monday evening that Price would propose proposing funding national defense at the level of the caps. But the hawks' threat appears to have led Price to turn to the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account in an attempt to get the group's support.
"It appears the committee will propose raising the amount for [OCO] from the president's request for $51 billion to a level that would compensate for this base budget discipline," said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting for the Clinton White House and who has ties to the congressional Budget committees.
Price's approach would not break the spending caps because, as Adams notes, "the OCO funds are, under the law, not counted toward the BCA caps."
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and ally of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a Budget Committee member, told The Hill newspaper on Monday evening that the panel will propose inflating the war fund to $90 billion.
That would, if it passes the full House and Senate, give the defense authorizers and appropriators $39 billion more to craft their annual Pentagon bills.
"It'll go up from this year and considerably up from where the president's budget is at," Cole told The Hill. "There will be considerable offsets on the non-discretionary side of the budget."
That no doubt will draw the ire of Democrats, and Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has said upper chamber Democrats will block any budget measure that gives more to defense but provides no additional funds to or guts domestic programs.