House, Senate plans call for $534 billion in defense spending
April 4, 2009
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Thursday pushed through a $3.5 trillion spending guideline that follows the president’s broad budget plan for fiscal 2010, including $130 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The House and Senate plans both call for about $534 billion in defense spending next year, up nearly 4 percent from fiscal 2009 levels.
Those figures do not include the cost of the war supplementals, and do not include specifics on how the money will be spent. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is set to outline those budget priorities and targets for spending cuts at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees have publicly stated they will support a 3.4 percent pay raise for all military personnel in the fiscal 2010 budget, above the 2.9 percent increase proposed by President Barack Obama in February. But they’ve been reluctant to push for specifics beyond that.
USA Today reported Friday that lawmakers also are pushing for a 2.9 percent pay raise for government workers, instead of the 2 percent proposed by the President.
The plans call for more than $53 billion in discretionary spending for veterans benefits and services, an increase of 11.5 percent from last year.
The White House is expected to unveil its full budget plan later this month, but defense and Congressional officials have warned that could be delayed until mid- or late May.
That would compress the time line for lawmakers to approve authorization and appropriations bills before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, although in recent years only the defense budget bills have been approved before that date.
In a statement Thursday night, Obama praised both chambers for advancing the process.
"With this vote comes an obligation to pursue our efforts to go through the budget line-by-line, searching for additional savings," he said. "Like the families we serve, we must cut the things we don’t need to invest in those we do."
The separate budget plans will head to a conference committee for reconciliation when the two chambers return from break on April 20. Both chambers’ budget outlines are about $100 billion below the White House’s initial proposals.
The Washington Post reported that the two plans do not match on how to pay for an overhaul of the president’s proposed health-care system, expected to add more than $1 trillion to the budget over the next decade.
Nor is there agreement on how to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars the government stands to collect by setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions and forcing industry to buy permits to pollute.
The Post noted that although the House and the Senate each approved Obama’s plans to extend tax cuts for middle-class families and to drop cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year, they each scaled back the president’s plan to make permanent an $800 tax credit for working families.
The House plan passed Thursday by a 233-196 vote, with 20 Democrats and every House Republican voting against the measure. The Senate version, passed at the same time, was approved by a 55-43 vote, with two Democrats and every Senate Republican opposing it.
Also next week, the Pentagon is expected to unveil details of its final fiscal 2009 war supplemental, which the Office of Budget and Management earlier this year said would cost nearly $76 billion.\