Senate Leaders Announce Two Year Budget Deal

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis takes questions during a press conference on Wednesday at the White House. Screenshot/CSPAN video.

Bipartisan Senate leaders on Wednesday announced they have reached a compromise budget deal that will fund the military for two years and push back the threat of sequestration.

The deal, which is expected to be up for a vote on Thursday, would avoid a government shutdown if approved by both the House and Senate before the current continuing resolution expires at 12 a.m. Friday.

“This compromise ensures that for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more [of the] resources they need to keep America safe,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The agreement will increase defense spending this year by $80 billion and domestic spending by $63 billion, and increase defense spending by $85 billion next year, according to a summary obtained by Politico. The funding will help the military face emerging threats and increase missile defense capabilities, McConnell said.

“We haven’t asked our men and women in uniform to do less for our country,” he said. “We have just forced them to make do with less than they need. This agreement changes that.”

The bill also includes a plan to lift the debt limit and provides funding or urgent domestic needs, such as disaster relief and infrastructure.

“One or two” details need to be worked out before a vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but the “principles” of the deal have been worked out, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. The House of Representatives earlier this week approved a “cromnibus” spending bill, which increased defense spending for all of 2018 while funding the rest of the government at a continuing resolution level.

The Senate is expected to take up the House’s government funding bill on Thursday, stripping its cromnibus language, and voting on the budget deal in its place, CNN reported. This will then return to the House, where it will require support from Democrats and fiscal conservatives.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) expressed support for the deal, saying in a joint statement with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that it “finally does what is needed to be done” to support the military.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking on Wednesday at the White House, said he is “heartened” that Congress is now recognizing the impact of budget uncertainty on the military. On Tuesday, Mattis warned lawmakers that more continuing resolutions would mean the Pentagon’s inability to pay troops and recruit airmen needed to rebuild readiness.

“We need Congress to lift the defense spending caps and support a two-year budget agreement for our military,” Mattis said. “America can afford survival.”

This agreement means “the military can defend our way of life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms you and I enjoy to the next generation,” Mattis said.