Updated 7:03 p.m. | The Senate Budget Committee’s agreed to boost funding in the budget plan for defense for the next fiscal year by $38 billion.
The committee backed an amendment offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. to bring the Senate plan in line with the expected eventual funding level in the House budget blueprint for Overseas Contingency Operations, the so-called OCO account.
Graham earlier in the day predicted the amendment would allow the budget resolution to get the votes necessary to advance through the Senate itself.
The adoption of the amendment came ahead of advancement of the budget by the committee, a move that sets up floor consideration next week. The Senate debate will begin on Monday.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., joined Graham in offering the amendment, which won broad GOP support despite some consternation.
“American troops are deployed overseas in Afghanistan and combating the threat we face from ISIS and other terrorist groups, and we have a responsibility to provide them with the very best training and equipment available. At a time when the threats to our nation are growing, this amendment provides necessary funding to protect our servicemen and women and keep our country safe,” Ayotte said in a statement.
Immediately after the Graham amendment, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., offered a proposal that was also adopted that would specify that elevating the funding in the war account to $96 billion would not also raise the baseline for the next budget year. Toomey said that while he shared the view that defense spending needed to be increased, he had concerns about the longer-term effects.
Ranking member Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., panned the Graham plan to increase the OCO account as a “total budget gimmick.”
“You want to debate defense spending? Let’s debate it,” said Sanders.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., repeated what she had said Wednesday about how many Republicans had dismissed the use of OCO funds for other purposes, such as to provide for the so-called “doc fix” for Medicare payments to doctors.
“I just think we should do it in a much more straightforward way and pay for it,” Stabenow said.
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