Threatening Revolt, Defense Hawks Win Budget Concession

Posted March 17, 2015 at 6:51pm

Facing the prospect of an open revolt from defense hawks, the House Budget Committee is poised this week to add even more defense dollars to a budget proposal that already goes beyond President’s Barack Obama’s Pentagon spending request.  

House Armed Services Committee members met early Tuesday, before the budget’s release, to sort out a strategy to get more military money into a spending plan the GOP leadership was moving ahead with despite HASC concerns. Defense hawks threatened to band together to sink the GOP budget if changes weren’t made. Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee Chairman Michael R. Turner told defense industry representatives Tuesday morning to call Budget Committee members, call Republican leadership, and “let them know that we are in an absolute crisis.”  

Through it all, Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia insisted there simply weren’t enough votes to add additional money. Not in his committee at least.  

But leadership called his bluff, according to lawmakers familiar with the situation that were contacted by CQ Roll Call. Majority Whip Steve Scalise and chief deputy whip Patrick T. McHenry contacted Republicans on the panel, found out the votes were there to boost the Overseas Contingency Operations account, and now the Budget Committee is slated to adopt an amendment this week that would placate the defense hawks.  

The overall vote could still be a challenge. Fiscal conservatives were already showing timidity on the budget.  

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he’d like to know why more than $600 billion a year wasn’t enough to ensure the United States be “militarily ready.”  

“I know that the military-industry complex wants us to believe we’re not ready, but I don’t know what exactly makes us not ready,” the Idaho Republican said.  

During a monthly panel event with conservatives, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan showed similar indifference to HASC member pleas. “I understand some of the concerns from defense hawks who want to blow through the [budget] caps,” he said. If it doesn’t sound like Amash is all that sympathetic to Republicans looking to increase defense spending, that’s because he’s not. The Michigan Republican said he was tired of increasing spending now for cuts later.  

With the defense hawks potentially appeased, the focus — and the whip operation — might now shift to the fiscal hawks.  

Emma Dumain, Connor O’Brien and Megan Scully contributed to this report.
Correction 7:10 p.m. A previous version of this story misidentified the state Rep. Labrador represents. It is Idaho.