WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - In a rare joint appearance at a retreat for Republican lawmakers, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned the GOP that the string of short-term bills Congress has passed to fund the government this year is hurting national security and military readiness.
“The secretaries were very clear in encouraging Congress to resolve the budget issues and to end continuing resolutions so they can manage their departments and more importantly, the world knows we are functioning and can do whatever needs to be done to protect the national security of the United States,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said after meeting with the secretaries.
The two secretaries briefed Republicans for an hour an a half early Thursday on day two of the retreat, which is supposed to serve as a planning session for the party’s 2018 agenda in Congress.
“A lot of the conversation was about the threats we face around the world,” Thornberry said.
The stopgap bills, or continuing resolutions, have increasingly hobbled the military and contributed to a string of deadly accidents, he said.
“We lost 23 service members to hostile actions in 2017,” Thornberry said. “We lost four times more than that to training related accidents. This budget dysfunction has a human cost and our military is bearing the brunt of it.”
Thornberry said the two parties are “very close to a budget agreement” that would raise spending above federally mandated caps.
A temporary spending bill expires on Feb. 8 and lawmakers say they’ll have to pass yet another short-term bill by then to keep the government open.
Thornberry said Democrats are holding up a year-long deal on spending because they want a provision to protect so-called Dreamers from deportation.
“The secretaries were very clear and direct about the imperative of getting a budget agreement in place so that we can end this series of CRs and threats of a shutdown,” Thornberry said.