WASHINGTON — The debt ceiling agreement negotiated between House Republican leaders and the White House would cap the defense budget topline at President Joe Biden’s $886 billion request for fiscal 2024, a 3.3% increase over this year.
It would also cut non-defense spending to $704 billion. The compromise legislation comes after weeks of negotiations between the Biden administration and House Republicans, who demanded non-defense spending cuts and several other concessions in order to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a U.S. default.
“We cut spending year-over-year for the first time in over a decade while fully funding national defense and veterans’ health benefits,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement upon introducing the compromise bill Sunday.
While the agreement grows the defense topline to Biden’s proposed $886 billion, numerous Republican defense hawks in Congress have already lambasted that proposal as “inadequate” for not keeping pace with inflation. In March, when the budget request was released, they pushed for a 3% to 5% increase over inflation.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on Fox News on Sunday after details first emerged, said the deal “increases defense spending below inflation.”
“The Biden defense budget was a joke before, and if we adopt it as Republicans, we will be doing a big disservice to the party of Ronald Reagan,” said Graham. “I like Kevin [McCarthy] a lot, but don’t tell me that the Biden defense budget fully funds the military.”
The bill also authorizes a 1% increase for both defense and non-defense spending in FY25. That would put the FY25 defense spending topline at $895 billion.
If Congress does not pass all 12 appropriations bills by the end of December, the debt deal mandates a full-year continuing resolution to fund the government with a 1% budget cut that would apply to defense and non-defense spending alike.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the legislation later this week. The Treasury Department has said it expects to run out of money to pay its bills by June 5. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling by that date, the government may have to suspend payments to troops, veterans and defense contractors.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.