Monday, February 8, 2016

Congress Drawing Battle Lines in '17 Defense Budget Fight

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat says if House Republicans follow through on threats to raise defense spending through the wartime account known as OCO, they can expect resistance from Democrats.
Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pushed back against House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Mac Thornberry’s assertion that $59 billion allocated for the overseas contingency operations account (OCO), was considered a floor and not a ceiling by the two-year bipartisan budget deal reached late last year. Thornberry has said in recent weeks that last year’s budget deal clearly set the amount as a minimum to be raised based on current threats.
“I viewed it as a ceiling, not a floor, but I would like to hear his explanation,” Durbin said of Thornberry on Thursday. “There is one abiding concern: fifty-fifty, defense and non-defense.”
A key principal for Democrats during last year’s budget negotiations was that any increase for the defense side of the budget be matched equally on the non-defense side. Asked if Democrats would stick to that principal, should the GOP seek an OCO plus-up, Durbin told Defense News: “I will.”
As Capitol Hill awaits the president’s 2017 budget proposal Feb. 9, familiar lines are being drawn in a battle that threatens to undo the carefully crafted Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 (BBA), a two-year deal that was supposed to provide stability to a budgeting process that has been irregular for most of President Barack Obama’s administration. More