SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The House majority leader said Saturday that Congress will hand the Pentagon and rest of the federal government a two-week stopgap budget by Dec. 8 to give lawmakers more time to strike a wider spending deal.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said negotiations are underway on a deal to raise the $549 billion cap on base defense spending for 2018, though Democrats have indicated an agreement may not yet be in reach, but another continuing resolution, or CR, is needed despite opposition from the military services.
A deal to lift the caps, which McCarthy said could cover next year as well, would allow Congress to finally pass legislation that funds the National Defense Authorization Act passed in November that proposes $634 billion in spending.
“I cannot tell you there will not be another CR, because there will be another CR next week,” said McCarthy at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “But this is the difference: It will be a two-week CR, so we can stop having CRs in the future.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a continuing resolution earlier in the day that would fund the government through Dec. 22.
Negotiations have been ongoing for weeks but have been partly hung up by Democrat demands that any increase in the Budget Control Act spending caps for defense should be matched by equal increases in non-defense spending.
Republicans are still resisting that dollar-for-dollar match, McCarthy said.
“You should fund your military with what you need … to protect you from the threats,” he said. “That is what you should decide the number on, and that’s the argument and where we’re going.”
Rep. Adam Smith, R-Ariz., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, has called for the need to repeal the BCA law that imposes the caps but said Saturday that Congress has not reach any consensus on how to raise defense spending for the NDAA.
“We are going to walk into a probably a 3-4 week, 2-3 month utter disaster starting on Friday,” Smith said. “Anyone who thinks we are close to a deal on the appropriations bill is not paying attention.”
The NDAA includes a hike in aircraft, ships, and troops that was championed by defense hawks who argue that the military is dangerously degraded from years of constrained budgets and wartime deployments.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has been urging Congress for months to pass a regular annual budget and avoid any more continuing resolutions, which bar it from starting new programs and make it difficult to plan. Lawmakers passed the current CR in September after they were unable to pass an annual budget.