House and Senate budget negotiators have less to discuss than it might seem about the Pentagon’s war-funding level as they craft a compromise 2016 spending blueprint.
At first glance, it appears there is a $7 billion difference between the federal spending resolutions passed last week by the House and Senate. The House approved a version that would clear the way for a $96 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund; the Senate’s version calls for an $89 billion war account.
But congressional sources say there’s only a $1 billion difference in just how much the Defense Department could get in OCO dollars.
The State Department receives some funds annually from the war account.
A House aide said that chamber’s resolution includes $6 billion for the State Department, bringing the Pentagon’s amount to $90 billion.
A Senate aide said the upper chamber’s bill excludes any monies for Foggy Bottom.
So House and Senate budget conferees must only come to a compromise OCO level that reconciles the $90 billion and $89 billion Defense Department levels.
Another issue will be whether or not to discard a provision in the Senate-approved budget measure that would require 60 votes on the floor later this year to increase the war fund above the initial number in the original version, crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. That level is the $50.9 billion level requested by the Obama administration.
Senators never got a chance to vote on an amendment floated last week by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., that would have removed that provision. He decided to withhold it.
“Sen. McCain felt he got a lot of what he pushed for in the budget resolution,” a Senate aide told CongressWatch last week. “The House position is strong on defense. He is confident any parliamentary issues can be worked out in conference.”
Read More:Budgets Only $1B Apart on DoD War-Fund Level.