As lawmakers mull the Department of Defense’s recently released $750 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, the leader of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) Strategic Forces subcommittee believes that the House will eventually settle on a $733 billion topline.
“The number I am hearing for defense is $733 billion,” Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said March 20 at a national security space conference at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. While that would be lower than the proposed topline, it remains “a very good number,” Cooper added. “We can live within that.”
The House is likely to reach a deal on lifting the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act to reach that funding level, Cooper added. He affirmed recent reports that Congress is unlikely to pass a full budget this year, but noted that “what we call the budget in the United States really isn’t a budget anyway; it’s a one-year political fix” that does not force the next Congress to follow its lead.
He critiqued the larger proposed number as being inflated with Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, which take up $164 billion of that proposed defense budget.
“When we have OCO and other off-budget financing in there, the budget is really a shambles anyway,” he said.
That being said, the House could set a record this year for passing appropriations bills on time or ahead of schedule, Cooper said. Members aim to pass all 12 appropriations bills by June 30, probably by grouping two or three bills together in a “minibus” to speed up passage.
Passing the bills by that date “hasn’t happened in a long, long time,” Cooper said. While the Senate’s schedule is another story, Cooper noted it would be “a darn good start” for the House to move so quickly.