Rep. Mac Thornberry on Wednesday challenged House fiscal hawks who may oppose a two-year budget deal, saying they either support it or are standing in the way of fixing a dangerously degraded military.
The newly unveiled deal would be a windfall for the Pentagon, allowing $700 billion in total defense funding this year and $716 billion next year. It could start to rebuild forces that Thornberry, who is the House Armed Services chairman, and others say are overstretched and underfunded.
But members of the House Freedom Caucus and Senate conservatives immediately assailed the deal, which also raises nondefense spending, as an irresponsible plan that will raise debt and the deficit.
“There’s lots of other things in the cap deal, lots of excuses people can use to vote whichever way they want,” Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters. “But fundamentally, this is about the United States military, and if you vote ‘yes,’ you are voting to fix the military; if you vote ‘no,’ you are voting against fixing the military, and for the families of those 80 service members who we lost last year. It’s that simple.”
Thornberry and the Armed Services Committee have pointed to the deaths of 80 troops in training and noncombat operations as proof the military needs the additional funding.
“This is what is required to begin to fix our planes and ships and readiness,” he said.
The budget deal was brokered by Republican and Democratic leadership after six months of discussions, but opposition GOP conservatives could make passing it difficult.
Both defense and nondefense spending is subject to Budget Control Act caps and both the House and Senate must pass legislation raising them before any money over those limits can be appropriated. Otherwise, the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration will kick in.
“I know this is going to be a difficult vote for a lot of people but I would just implore my colleagues to step up, do the right thing, take that vote on behalf of our military, on behalf of the American people,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., a House Armed Services member. “Let’s ride to the sound of the guns, let’s get this done.”