The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) voted along party lines May 21 to pass the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations bill out of committee and onto the House floor.
The bill, which passed 30-22, provides $690.2 billion to the Department of Defense, an increase of nearly $16 billion over the FY ’19 enacted amount, and $8 billion below the 2020 presidential budget request. The committee released the draft defense bill May 14.
It includes about $622 billion in base funding and $68 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funds, an increase of $165 million above FY ’19 and $96.2 billion below the FY ’20 request.
The committee adopted five amendments during the markup session Tuesday morning, including a manager’s amendment introduced by HAC-Defense Chairman Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) which was adopted via voice vote.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) and approved unanimously via voice vote provided over $241 million for procurement of equipment to assist with storm recovery at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, as well as Marine Air Corps Stations Cherry Point and New River in North Carolina. The funds would be reprogrammed from the Air Force’s FY ’20 research, development, test and evaluation allocation in the draft defense bill.
Two were proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), with one repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Funds (AUMF) after 240 days, during which time Congress would debate and vote on a new authorization. Lee’s second passed amendment provides that no funds included in the bill can be construed “as authorizing the use of force against Iran.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) proposed an amendment to remove U.S. troops from assisting in hostile operations in Yemen, with an exclusion for counter-terrorism activities against al-Qaida and ISIS. The amendment language specifies that those hostilities include in-flight refueling of non-U.S. aircraft conducting operations as part of the ongoing civil war in Yemen. The amendment passed 30-22.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) proposed an amendment that would add $8 billion in OCO funds, and argued doing so would lift the defense funds back up to the Trump administration’s FY ’20 request without impacting the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps. The amendment failed to pass.
Similarly, an amendment proposed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) that sought to further specify language that banned Turkey from receiving Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] F-35 Joint Strike Fighter did not pass. While the current bill language prohibits Turkey from receiving the F-35 aircraft or equipment altogether, Granger’s amendment would have specified “until the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the government of Turkey is not purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia and will not accept the delivery of such system.” The committee voted no largely along party lines, with Democrats voting not to accept the amendment, and Republicans in favor.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) which moved to strike language in the draft bill that prohibits the reprogramming of DoD funds for border barrier or infrastructure construction was also voted down.
In his argument on the floor, Harris criticized Democrats’ intent to vote against his amendment, stating that under the current bill’s language, DoD would be prohibited from reprogramming funds for security cameras and other equipment that could be used for drug interdiction along the border.
The bill faces a tough vote on the House floor, where members will consider it without a budget topline set in place by the National Defense Authorization Act or a spending deal compromise.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) praised the bill’s passage in a statement Tuesday, calling it “a responsible spending bill” that improves readiness while prohibiting the use of funds for border wall or barrier construction.
Republican members on the floor expressed concern over passing the defense bill and moving it to the House floor when an agreement had not yet been reached to defeat the 2011 Budget Control Act caps, and criticized the withholding of defense funds for border barrier developments.
“I am greatly concerned that the Committee is marking up this and other bills without an agreement on topline spending levels that the President will also support,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), ranking member of the HAC-Defense subcommittee who voted no on the defense bill.
“The bill was crafted without acknowledging the reality that if we cannot reach agreement on a budget caps deal, we face sequestration in the coming year,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “If we fail to strike a deal, and are forced to endure sequestration, the impacts to our military readiness and modernization would be dire. We need all parties to come to the table now and make the tough but critical budget decisions necessary to protect our national security.
“I want to work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to develop bills for fiscal year 2020 that meet our nation’s defense and border security priorities in a fiscally responsible manner,” he added.