House committee finishes defense bill, with vote along party lines

House committee finishes defense bill, with vote along party lines

Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, 14th Air Force commander, left, presents the guidon to Col. Devin Pepper, incoming commander of the 460th Space Wing, at a May 3 change-of-command ceremony on Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. (Staff Sgt. Stephen G. Eigel/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee approved defense funding for 2020 that includes new language on funding the border wall, using troops overseas, and ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

The measure passed on a 30-22 vote along party lines late Tuesday in the Democratic-majority committee.

“The Defense subcommittee has put forward a responsible spending bill that increases funds by $1 billion to address readiness requirements and ensure the well-being of our service members and their families,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement after final passage.

The bill contains $690.2 billion for fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1, 2019 — $622.1 billion in general funding and $68.1 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) war account used for overseas conflicts. That total is $15.8 billion above the 2019 amount but $8 billion less than the White House budget request.

Republicans decried the amendments, which they said politicized the legislation.

“The bill includes many critical investments, which is why it’s so unfortunate that important initiatives that have broad support are overshadowed by new restrictions on the department’s ability to provide lawful assistance to other agencies in combating the real crisis on our southern border,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, said in a statement.

Calvert was referring to an amendment limiting the Pentagon’s ability to transfer money between accounts to $1.5 billion. That is in response to the Pentagon’s ongoing shifting of defense funds for use in the president’s desired wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

There is money for a 3.1% pay increase for service personnel. The committee squelched the request for $72 million to build a Space Force headquarters, voting instead to provide $15 million for the Pentagon to examine alternatives to a stand-alone new service branch.

The committee also approved language to sunset the 2001 authorization of the use of military force, known as AUMF. That post 9-11 legislation gives a president authority to send and keep U.S. forces in areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. New legislation would be drafted to tighten that authority. The current authority would end eight months after the legislation becomes law, under the amendment.

Another amendment approved would end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Similar to legislation that Congress passed earlier this year — and was vetoed by President Donald Trump — the restrictions would exclude efforts against al-Qaida, activity with Israel and intelligence gathering for Yemen.

The committee also zeroed out money for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, through which the Pentagon wants to hire a single commercial cloud provider to house the bulk of Defense Department data. The committee said no funds would be provided until the Pentagon Department “starts sending regular reports on how the JEDI program will be changed to comply with OMB (Office of Management and Budget) guidelines.”

  • Subscribe to Talk Media News


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.