The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he voted in favor of a stopgap budget measure Thursday in hopes that Congress can strike a deal in January to raise caps on defense spending and fund the Pentagon.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, has pressed lawmakers to fund a $700 billion defense authorization bill already signed by President Trump and criticized the continuing resolutions for holding down the Pentagon budget and dangerously eroding military readiness.
But an appropriations bill to supply the money for the National Defense Authorization Act has failed to materialize and lawmakers have not resolved a host of thorny political issues that stand in the way of raising a $549 billion cap on base defense spending for 2018.
“It was clear that we were not going to get a cap deal this week, and I think everybody needs a little time and space to get beyond the partisanship that we’ve been seeing,” Thornberry said. “But I still think we can get and probably will get a good cap deal in January.”
Thornberry opposed and voted against an earlier continuing resolution in September and had said he would not support another long-term stopgap. Asked Thursday if his patience with the legislative process is wearing thin, he said, "Of course."
The Pentagon has pointed to budget instability as a top threat to its operations. Thornberry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have blamed budget caps and stopgap measures for recent deadly aviation and naval incidents, such as the collisions last summer of the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald destroyers in the Pacific Ocean.
"Every day still does damage; that doesn’t change," Thornberry said.
The continuing resolution passed by the House Thursday would hold the military and the rest of the federal government to 2017 budget levels until it expires on Jan. 19 and buy lawmakers more time to negotiate an annual budget that is months overdue. The Senate was expected to take up the legislation the same evening.
The House had floated an early CR proposal that would have funding the military for a full year while providing a stopgap for the rest of the federal government through Jan. 19. But the Senate opposed the measure, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it would be “dead on arrival.”