The House on July 25 passed a two-year spending bill that would remove the threat of sequestration through fiscal year 2021, with the Senate expected to vote on the bill next week.

The vote, which was passed 284-149, sets the funding topline for defense spending at $738 billion for fiscal year 2020 and at $741.5 billion for FY ’21, higher than the $733 billion topline included in the House version of the FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act. However, it is lower than the $750 billion topline originally requested by the White House, and which included in the Senate-passed version of the NDAA.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

The deal, which was brokered by House Democrats including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this week, suspends the debt limit through July 2021 and sets funding toplines well beyond what would have been allowed under the final two years of spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

GOP leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees strongly urged party members to support the bipartisan bill, arguing that funding stability and an increase over the House NDAA bill will prove more useful to the U.S. military than a drawn-out fight that could result in a continuing resolution (Defense Daily, July 24). The bill faced some pushback from fiscal conservatives on the right and progressive Democrats on the left.

Democratic leaders such as HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also pitched the bill to members as a bipartisan compromise that has a shot of passing the Republican-led Senate.

“The most fundamental responsibility of the government is to fund the government and operate,” Smith said in a House floor speech before the vote. “Over the course of the last eight years, we have repeatedly failed to do that.”

“This budget agreement, though not perfect, funds the government – and I believe responsibly funds the government – both defense and non-defense,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed his desire to get the bill on the Senate floor before members leave for recess Aug. 2, a sentiment that has been echoed by other top GOP members including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Other members of the upper chamber are still mulling over their support of the bill. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), both SASC subcommittee chairs, told Defense Daily Wednesday that they are still reviewing the bill’s language and have not yet made up their minds on which way to vote. President Trump has indicated he would sign the bill if it passes both chambers.