Senate Appropriators Approve Defense Bill on Party Line Vote

Senate Appropriators Approve Defense Bill on Party Line Vote

Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY2011 defense appropriations bill that emerged from subcommittee on Tuesday, but on a party-line vote, 18-12. Ordinarily defense appropriations is a bipartisan measure.

Republican opposition to the bill apparently is a signal of dissatisfaction with the overall level of spending in FY2011 supported by the Democrats. Republicans are trying to force Democrats to cut discretionary spending — which includes DOD, NASA and NOAA — and hold it to $1.108 trillion, less than the Senate’s $1.114 trillion or the House’s $1.121 trillion, according to Congress Daily (subscription required).

Congress Daily quotes Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as saying that Republicans have opposed all the FY2011 appropriations bills because they do not bring down the deficit or the debt, while Rep. James Moran (D-VA), chair of one of the House appropriations subcommittees (Interior and Environment), is quoted as asserting that it is “all about politics … not about being fiscally responsible.”

Whatever the motivations, it is clear that whatever is approved by the appropriations committees on both sides remains subject to revision as the appropriations bills work their way through the rest of the congressional process. The House has passed two of the 12 FY2011 appropriations bills (Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, and Military Construction-Veterans Administration). The Senate has not passed any. Fiscal year 2011 begins on October 1. A Continuing Resolution (CR) will be needed to keep the government operating while Congress completes consideration of the appropriations bills. CRs usually hold agencies to their previous year’s funding level.

While there were predictions this summer than the national security appropriations bills (defense, Homeland Security, and Milcon-VA) would pass before Congress adjourned for the November elections, that appears less likely now. As for the bill that funds NASA and NOAA (the Commerce-Justice-Science bill), it is anyone’s guess as to when that will pass, but whenever it does, it would not be surprising for it to include an across-the-board reduction. Such reductions typically are taken at the agency’s discretion and usually must be applied to all programs within an agency.

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