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Senate, House spending plans boost defense funds

Senate, House spending plans boost defense funds

The Senate early Friday morning narrowly passed a federal fiscal 2016 budget plan that would leave defense spending caps in place but use temporary war funds to plus up the Pentagon’s funding for next year.

The move comes on the heels of a similar plan from House lawmakers, signaling Congress’ preference to leave the much-reviled sequestration rules in place for next year but also to find some way to give fiscal relief to the military.

Republicans touted the passage of the budget resolutions as a return to the normal business in a Congress that has been tangled in political gridlock for years

But neither legislative move has the force of law behind it, and Pentagon officials have already signaled their distaste for the plan.

As the Senate measure was being debated Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said proposals to “shoehorn” temporary money into the Pentagon’s accounts “would fail to solve (our) problems, while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning,”

The Senate budget resolution — which passed 52-46 after roughly 15 hours of amendments debate — sets a defense base budget of $523 billion, but adds $89 billion in overseas contingency funds to the Pentagon’s available funds.

That would bring total defense spending in fiscal 2016 to roughly the same level as the target desired by White House and senior military officials, but without changing sequestration rules mandating spending caps across the government.

House lawmakers adopted a similar budget resolution two days earlier, with $96 billion in boosted war funds and no funding offset elsewhere.

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