McCain Amendment to Reignite Debate over Use of War Funds
Dan Cohen AUTHOR When Senate debate on the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill begins next week, one of the most high-profile amendments lawmakers consider will be Armed Services Chairman John McCain’s proposal to provide an additional $18 billion in war spending to pay for new weapons and higher Army force levels that the Obama administration did not request.The Arizona Republican’s amendment would “reverse short-sighted cuts” and “halt dangerous reductions to the end strength of the military services” by adding the funds to the department’s uncapped overseas contingency operations account, according to a written statement. Earlier, McCain had said he would provide the extra funds by seeking to raise the statutory cap on defense spending.The amendment would authorize $2.4 billion to increase the size of all four services, reported CQ Roll Call. “We cannot change course soon enough. This amendment is the Senate’s opportunity to do just that,” McCain said.McCain’s plan differs somewhat from the funding approach included in the House version of the annual defense policy bill. The House measure calls for shifting $18 billion from the OCO to base budget items, a move that would require the next administration to request supplemental funds for overseas operations before next May.Last week, Senate Democrats objected to a motion to start consideration of the bill, forcing the chamber to postpone debate until it returns from its Memorial Day recess June 6.Democrats indicated they wouldn’t support McCain’s proposal without an agreement to provide an equivalent funding boost for domestic programs. The amendment would upend the two-year bipartisan budget agreement reached last year to lift the caps on both defense and non-defense spending.There are “serious discussion now going on among the caucus about what’s the best approach,” said Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee.