Senate Tees Up Minibus Spending Package; Hopes it Precedes Bigger Deal
The Senate this week voted to advance a minibus package of non-controversial spending bills. The minibus is made up of four spending bills that fund the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Interior-Environment, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation departments. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said he would like to start talks in earnest with House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) on top-line allocations for all 12 spending bills shortly after the Senate passes its four-bill package.
Even if the Senate passes the measure easily, its likely headed nowhere in the House, at least not until the two chambers can agree to top-line spending allocations. Negotiations have been stalled as Lowey and Shelby negotiate because Shelby must also receive sign-off from the White House on the agreement. The House and Senate remain at odds over authority and funding related to the border wall.
Shelby Discusses CR Extension Through March
As conversations on spending bills between the House and Senate stall, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) this week suggested that lawmakers were considering how to extend the current Continuing Resolution to “late February or March.” The idea of a long stopgap, running the government roughly halfway through the fiscal year on autopilot, is a reflection of how slow lawmakers have been to start bicameral spending talks on funding levels for the fiscal year that began on October 1st. Lawmakers would miss out on a $22 billion increase for defense funding and a $24.5 billion increase for nondefense discretionary if a stopgap were to run throughout all of fiscal 2020.
RELATED: Politico: Thornberry Makes New Plea for Full Year Pentagon Funding
Inhofe To Unveil “Skinny NDAA” Next Week
Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) announced this week that he will roll out a slimmed-down version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) next week in case House and Senate negotiators can’t agree on a compromise bill by the end of the year. Inhofe has said that the “skinny” bill would only renew a series of pay and benefits and other Pentagon authorities set to expire at the end of December. House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) rejected the idea saying, “any bill that does not restrict wall funding would be challenging to bring to the House floor.”
Navy Testifies on Ship Maintenance Before House Armed Services Committee
Navy Acquisition Executive Hondo Geurts and Vice Chief Admiral Moore were grilled by the House Armed Services Committee this week in a hearing on ship and submarine maintenance and other shipbuilding problems. The committee criticized the Navy for neglecting maintenance even as the service is working to grow the Fleet to meet the 355-ship policy. Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Elaine Luria (D-VA) were especially forceful in their questioning and heavily criticized the delays in the Ford-class aircraft carrier program. The questioning spurred a defense from Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer who defended the Navy’s acquisition process.