The House could vote to pass the fiscal year 2019 (FY’19) appropriations bill to fund the Department of Defense (DoD) and several other agencies on Wednesday, funding the Pentagon ahead of the end of the fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman said Tuesday.
“I admit it’s a little bit weird to be so proud that you actually do your job on time,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters. “But given where we are, we’ll take it.”
The minibus bill H.R. 6157 includes $674 billion in base funding and overseas contingency funds for the Pentagon, along with funding for the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. The Senate passed the conference bill on Sept. 18 by a vote of 93-7. (Defense Daily, Sept. 18) If the House passes it before the end of the week — the final legislative days before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 — it will be the first time the defense bill is passed on time in nine years, he noted.
Thornberry noted that a vote before October is important “for the sake of good government that for the first time in nearly a decade, the DoD has its money on time.”
He contrasted that potential outcome to how the Pentagon only had six months to spend all the funds appropriated in the FY’18 budget because it was not signed until March 2018, four months into the fiscal year. “By the time you go through that process, there just wasn’t that much time,” he said.
Thornberry touted the bill’s potential to rebuild the U.S. military’s readiness gaps, fund needed repair work and invest in leap-ahead technologies required to support the FY‘18 national defense strategy.
“To get out of this readiness hole, to really get research dollars going, to get new, innovative companies into DoD, we need to have at least one year” of stability, he said.
He did not anticipate House members taking major issues with anything within the bill, adding, "I just don’t think any excuse, wishful thinking, second-guessing leadership decisions — none of that holds a candle to the value that this means for the men and women who serve."
Should the House pass the minibus bill before the end of the week, members will not return to Capitol Hill until after the midterm elections are held on Nov. 6, Thornberry said. He does not anticipate that President Trump will attempt to veto the spending bill, despite the president’s recent griping about the lack of border wall funding included in the FY ’19 budget.
“He has been very consistent about rebuilding the military from beginning to end, and this is the biggest single step we can take to rebuilding the military,” he said, adding: “I understand the president is frustrated about other appropriations that are not part of it, but I believe he will sign it and I believe it will be a major achievement … to actually get our work done on time in a way that benefits the military so much.”