Election, Lame-Duck Congress Put
Defense Spending Decisions in Doubt
With precious few legislative days remaining in this Congress and an end-of-year schedule that remains
a major question mark, there is no guarantee lawmakers
will have time or the inclination during the lame-duck session following the November elections to take up the
annual bills that fund the Pentagon and set new policy.
The Defense Department and other federal agencies
currently are funded for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1
through a government-wide continuing resolution (CR)
that sets spending just slightly above last year’s levels.
The CR, which the House had approved and was
awaiting a Senate vote at press time, funds the government for the first six months of the 2013 fiscal year, providing the Pentagon and other agencies with some stability in an increasingly erratic and partisan era of budgeting. The longer-term funding agreement also will allow
lawmakers to let the dust settle after the November elections and to regroup in the new Congress.
In recent years, Congress has been unable to pass the
annual appropriations measure by Oct. 1. Instead, lawmakers have approved a series of short-term, stop-gap
CRs, at times bringing anxious government officials to the
brink of shutdown when the agreements came close to
But the lengthy CR also calls into question whether
lawmakers will even attempt to pass a separate defense
appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 or simply renew the
CR before it expires on March 27.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
House and Senate Armed Services Committee members
are holding out hope that the annual defense authorization
bill will make its way to the White House by the end of the
year, despite more pressing concerns such as the looming
threat of sequestration. John McCain, R-Ariz., ranking
member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, shown
here during a March 7 hearing, is among the panel members
who recently solicited input from the country’s largest
defense contractors on the effects of sequestration.
Depending on the outcome of
the election, there almost certainly
will be no appetite for debating
appropriations bills in the lame-
duck session, particularly since
funding already is approved for the
first three months of the new
Congress. Lawmakers, meanwhile,
will be grappling with the threat of
sequestration — across-the-board
cuts that will force the Pentagon to
carve nearly $55 billion from its
fiscal 2013 budget come January if
Congress cannot agree to a biparti-
san deficit-reduction plan.