The House of Representatives passed their first appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year budget. The House passed their $612 billion defense-spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 on Friday, May 15, 2015 with a vote of 269 to 151. It is the first bill passed based on the Republican Congress’ budget blueprint for the next decade, which balances the budget, by cutting social programs, but rises defense spending. President Barack Obama plans to veto the bill because the budget for defense goes beyond the 2011 sequestration, automatic spending cuts limit.
The defense-spending bill found support mostly based on party lines, with all Republican voting in favor and only eight voting against the bill. Most Democrats opposed the bill, still 41 voted in favor of the bill. The bill increases defense spending by increasing the funds for the Pentagon’s War funds, therefore circumventing the sequestration rules, by officially keeping the defense-spending cap in place.
The bill provides $523 billion for the Department of Defense for 2016, but provides additional $90 billion from the war fund. The amount added to war fund is $38 billion more than the White House wanted, which one of the reasons two reasons President Obama plans to veto the bill. The other reason Obama opposes the bill is that the language of the bill would prevent Guantanamo Bay from closing, a long time goal of the president that has been opposed by Republicans. The bill bans the transfer of detainees and prevents any place being built to house them on American soil.
The impasse on the bill could eventually lead to a showdown and a possible government shutdown come October 1, if a compromise is not reached before the start of the new fiscal year. The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (WA) is concerned about a government shutdown. “All I am saying is we should start now instead of risking another government shutdown, risking another continuing resolution, and get a true budget agreement that actually addresses the Budget Control Act in its entirety, doesn’t just find a sort of awkward workaround through the overseas contingency operations just to take care of defense.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) accused the Democrats of playing partisan politics, “They did so without listing a single serious policy concern, letting politics come before national security. With all the threats our troops face and the sacrifices they make, Democrats’ opposition to this defense bill is in fact indefensible.”
The partisan divisions were similar for the budget blueprint from which the defense bill is based, raising defense funding was a key obstacle for resolving the blueprint between House and Senate Republicans in the end a deal was reached to increase defense spending and appeasing GOP hawks, using the Pentagon War Fund seemed the best way to get around sequestration. The deal led to the blueprint passage. The bill was not binding therefore did not require Obama’s signature.
The Senate is working on their own defense-spending bill, but it will be similar to the House’s. The White House as already indicated President Obama would veto the House’s version of the Defense bill.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.