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Chances of Change to Defense Spending Caps Falling

Troubles confront Trump budget proposal to lift defense limits

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., a veteran appropriator, is dubious of the proposed changes to the budget.. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., a veteran appropriator, is dubious of the proposed changes to the budget.. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican appropriators appear increasingly skeptical about President Donald Trump’s eye-popping proposed changes to fiscal 2017 spending levels, including nondefense spending cuts, a proposed $30 billion defense supplemental and a $3 billion border security supplemental.

Lawmakers said in interviews that it looks increasingly unlikely that GOP lawmakers will propose — let alone pass — the needed changes to budget law to allow for Trump’s request to increase the fiscal 2017 defense cap by $25 billion and reduce the nondefense cap by $15 billion. The reductions in nondefense, which were not specified by Trump, likely would require some major, nearly immediate cuts in federal agency budgets.

With fiscal 2017 halfway over and work on the remaining 11 spending bills nearly complete, it also appears improbable the administration will get the full requested $33 billion in additional funds for the Pentagon and a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“It’s very doubtful,” said House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, when asked if he expects House Republicans to approve the request in full.

Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who spent the last six years chairing the full Appropriations Committee, told CQ Roll Call he doesn’t expect either of the supplemental bills will move alongside the regular fiscal 2017 spending bills.

Instead they would likely move on their own, which could decrease the probability they pass the Senate at all.

Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, told CQ Roll Call she will be calling Secretary of Defense James Mattis to testify about the proposed changes to defense spending in the current fiscal year. But she did not want to speculate about what amount of additional defense spending she would propose for a defense supplemental.

CQ reported  on Monday that the full $30 billion for the Pentagon probably isn’t needed because the House-passed fiscal 2017 Defense spending bill already has funding for at least $3 billion of the supplemental spending request.

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., told CQ Roll Call he is working through the fiscal 2017 changes the White House requested, but said he didn’t have a timetable in place for when the committee could move forward with the supplemental or how much members may actually appropriate.

Frelinghuysen did say he is concerned about how exactly Congress should pay for any increases in spending.

“We’re obviously concerned about the potential offsets and taking a close look to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t hurt the basic operation of the government, ” Frelinghuysen said.

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