Congress and the White House are fast moving towards a showdown over spending for the coming year.
On the same day that the House Appropriations Committee began deliberating over a $578.6 billion defense spending bill that exceeds the president’s request and breaches statutory limits, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan sent a letter to GOP leaders saying the administration won’t tolerate additional defense spending unless Republicans agree to lift spending caps on domestic programs for fiscal 2016.
The defense spending measure is the sixth bill drafted by House Republicans this year that would employ a double-standard of sidestepping the 2011 Budget Control Act while adhering to the law’s strict spending caps. The administration argues that without a change in the law, the sequester would have the long term effect of short-changing vital domestic and economic growth programs as well as stunting some overseas programs.
“The President's Budget would reverse sequestration and replace the savings with commonsense spending and tax reforms. It brings middle-class economics into the 21st Century and makes the critical investments needed to support our national security and accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run, including research, education, training and infrastructure,” Donovan wrote.
Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned her Republican colleagues today that Obama would veto any spending bill sent to his desk unless the White House and Republican leaders can agree to a revised budget plan.
The White House and congressional Democrats have been pushing for a bipartisan compromise on spending almost as soon as the House and Senate completed work on a fiscal 2016 Republican budget document that many in both parties dismissed as an unrealistic partisan document.
GOP House budget experts funneled nearly $40 billion of additional funds to DOD through an Overseas Contingency Operations account meant primarily for financing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Democrats and even some Republicans and budget watchdogs howled at this and other gimmicks that they said made a mockery of budget law and added tens of billions of dollars to the deficit.
The simmering controversy threatens to come to a head in the coming weeks when the Senate begins work on the first of the dozen annual spending bills.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it a top priority to pass the dozen annual appropriations bills through the Senate as a sign that the chamber was fully functioning again. But McConnell and other Senate and House Republican leaders may be headed for another crisis this summer if the appropriations process collapses and Congress is faced with the threat of another government shutdown or a default on U.S. debt.
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