Originally published Feb. 24, this story was updated to include a statement from Rep. Steny Hoyer.
WASHINGTON — If it were ever in doubt, US House defense hawks are making clear to Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price they want a budget resolution that raises defense spending.
Rep. Mike Turner, who spearheaded efforts last year to secure more military funding, sent a letter to Price with the signatures of 84 House Republicans, in support for a budget with at least $574 billion for "national defense base requirements."
Price, R-Ga., is also under pressure from deficit hawks aligned with the House Freedom Caucus who want a budget resolution that eschews higher discretionary spending caps, eased by $30 billion for fiscal 2017.
Price has said he hopes to mark up the 2017 budget resolution by late March, but his committee has been hung up since appropriators voiced opposition to Price's plan to offer multiple options for cutting mandatory spending right away, including an option for attaching mandatory cuts to appropriations bills, according to a CQ Roll Call report.
The budget resolution is not a law, but serves as internal guidance to the other congressional committees which sets the top-line for appropriators.
In recent weeks, Price has been floating the idea of a $15 billion increase for OCO, according to Harrison. While fiscal hawks are likely to go along, their efforts to cut mandatory spending sets up a fight with Democrats.
"I'm willing to do whatever I can to get money to the defense department, but the OCO thing is like the crack cocaine of budgeting," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a prominent member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I'd rather put it in the base [budget]."
On the Senate side, Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., was tight-lipped about his panel's deliberations. On Tuesday, he said Senate leadership had set a deadline for its budget resolution, but Enzi would not share it.
"I'm doing everything I possibly can to get to a balanced budged over a 10-year period," Enzi said. "I'm not going into any dates. I'll do it as quickly as I can."
Meanwhile, House Democrats have made political hay out of the pace of the Budget Committee deliberations and are rapping Republicans for deciding not to invite Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan for a hearing to testify on the president's budget request.
"While we had expected to see House Republicans release their budget this week, it has become apparent that internal divisions within their Conference have once again led to gridlock and delay," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, said in a statement on Wednesday. "Perhaps, if they were to allow the Administration's insights to be heard even in a single hearing, it might be easier to find common ground. For example, the President's budget abides by the bipartisan budget agreement reached in October."
The No. 2 Democrat on the powerful House Rules Committee, Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern chided Price Wednesday in a House floor speech for "punting on a Republican budget because apparently there is not enough red meat in there to satisfy Tea Party or the Freedom Caucus."
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., called on Republicans to hold a hearing on the president's budget while the panel's budget resolution is stalled, calling the Donovan snub, "an unprecedented show of disrespect."
"The lack of respect shown to this president is abominable, it disgraceful and it does not reflect the American character," Pascrell said.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.