Lowey statement at full committee markup of 2018 Defense Appropriations bill
Thank you, Chairman Frelinghuysen, Chairwoman Granger, and Ranking Member Visclosky for your hard work on this bill.
Our third full committee markup takes place with the majority having failed again this week – nine months into the fiscal year – to advance or even produce a budget resolution. There is no apparent plan to keep the government funded or avoid a catastrophic debt default in the fall. And no talks exist to raise the Budget Control Act spending caps, which left unaddressed would wreak havoc on this very bill.
The proposed spending bills shatter the existing Budget Control Act defense spending cap, triggering an automatic across-the-board cut of 13 percent to every defense account in this bill and others. Yet the majority pretends that this legal fact does not exist.
Add to that a layer of secrecy and no transparency about the impacts on the 302b allocations for the rest of the bills. We know what it means: drastic cuts to Americans’ priorities, like job creation and training, infrastructure improvement, safety net programs like meals for homebound seniors, and much more.
By failing to meet the basic standards of a functioning appropriations process, we are flirting with disaster and continuing the very budgetary pressures defense leaders bemoan:
1. Cuts stemming from the BCA;
2. Spending bills that aren’t enacted on time; and
3. Unpredictable future spending levels.
The House bill seeks to provide additional funds to address the first problem, but fails to amend the Budget Control Act. The Republican bills would trigger the sequester this committee so loathes, with 13% cuts to defense accounts.
The Republican approach all but guarantees a short-term CR, if not a full-year CR, which makes problem #2 – late enactment of spending bills– worse. And a massive one-year increase would create future funding cliffs and instability, contributing to problem #3, unpredictability.
I am also concerned with specific provisions in this bill. There are seven National Defense Restoration Funds totaling $28.6 billion in what amounts to slush funds for a Department that would receive $28 billion more than it requested. This committee has a duty to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and transparently.
We don’t face a choice of whether to fund a strong military or not. Of course, we should fund the mightiest military on Earth and the brave service members who sacrifice to protect us each day. The challenge, which this Committee is failing to meet, is finding a balanced, bipartisan path to also fund critical domestic investments that sustain our economy; Americans’ safety, security, and well-being; and our ability to cultivate a ready military in a healthy, well-educated society.
Just like every year, Democratic votes will be needed to enact appropriations law. I hope we will soon start to work together to invest responsibly in both defense and nondefense priorities.