WASHINGTON — Bucking objections from the White House, the Pentagon and leading Democrats in Congress, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved its 2017 Pentagon-funding bill, which would shift billions from the war account to pay for base budget needs.

The bill proposes $517.1 billion in discretionary funding for the Defense Department's base budget needs, an amount $3 billion above the fiscal 2016 enacted spending level and $587 million below President Barack Obama's request. The bill also provides $59 billion in wartime overseas contingency operations funding, $16 billion of which would go to base budget items.

Mirroring an approach taken by the House Armed Services Committee and endorsed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — just with different numbers — the shorting of OCO is a gambit to force the next president to ask Congress for supplemental defense spending. In the House defense policy bill, OCO would expire April 30, 2017.

A presidential veto threat that hangs over the annual defense policy bill also cast a shadow on the spending bill, which heard Democratic opposition Tuesday. Obama has threatened to veto the annual bill each year in office, though he only followed through last year, over similar spending maneuvers.

White House officials, in a memo from the Office of Management and Budget on Monday, blasted the extra base budget spending as "excess force structure without the money to sustain it, effectively creating a hollow force," especially given more restrictive defense spending caps scheduled for coming years.

But Republican House leaders have said those increases are needed to meet current threats. In the policy bill, that includes 27,000 more active-duty troops and 25,000 reservists; $3 billion for 14 more F/A-18E/F aircraft for the Navy and 11 more F-35 joint strike fighters across the services; and a $2 billion plus-up to the Navy's shipbuilding budget.

The House Appropriations Committee, which passed the spending bill by a voice vote, added language offered by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., stating Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State group. As the president wages war in the Mideast based on a 2001 authorization, several proposals to update it have surfaced in Congress and died in recent years.

Committee Democrats went on the offensive over the OCO funding scheme. The House Appropriations Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, voiced opposition, saying it "blows up last year's budget agreement through a gimmick."

"The difference here is about more than bookkeeping, sending our military men and women into some of the most dangerous places on earth — Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria — without ensuring in this bill that we provide mission support and pay their salary for this year, is the height of irresponsibility," Lowey said.

House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman Rodney Freylinghuysen, R-N.J., defended the plan as a means of addressing "alarmingly low" readiness levels, an ebbing technological edge and shrinking force levels.

Acknowledging the White House and defense secretary's accusation that cutting off OCO gambles with troops' Mideast mission, Freylinghuysen attacked the administration over Obama's approach to national security challenges around the globe.

"The bill before you does not 'gamble,'" Freylinghuysen said. "Rather, this proposal wisely invests more money for more troops, more training, modern equipment, expanded cybersecurity, more intelligence-gathering capability and better health care outcomes for our troops and their families."

"To assume there will be smooth sailing for a supplemental appropriations bull in the spring is Pollyannaish," Visclosky said. "We do not know who will be in the White House, who will be the civilian leadership at DoD, or even the composition of the next Congress."

Visclosky also predicted a reckoning as Budget Control Act caps, which are set to lower defense spending by $2 billion in 2018, collide with the spending bill's troop increases, which he said will cost $30 billion over five years.

"I understand that OCO provides a path of least resistance to increasing defense spending and allows for the postponement of some very tough decisions," he said. "However, we cannot keep deferring tough decisions."

Leo Shane contributed to this report.

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.

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