House Freezes Pentagon Spending at Last Year’s Levels

Last night, the House approved a Pentagon budget bill of nearly $606 billion, $1.1 billion below the level recommended by the GOP leadership. Congratulations are in order for freshman Republican Mick Mulvaney (SC-5), and retiring Democrat Barney Frank (MA-4), for co-sponsoring the amendment that effectively froze spending at last year’s level.

According to Politico’s David Rogers, “the freeze marks a modest but still important turning point in the budget wars with 89 Republicans joining 158 Democrats on the key 247-167 vote.”

It is a modest step, but I’m encouraged that 88 Republicans sided with Mulvaney. This should send a message to House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon and others who have claimed, falsely, that defense spending has been gutted in recent years, or who contend, absurdly, that the United States cannot maintain its safety and security with a budget that is well above post–cold war levels.

There is still much work to be done, however. The budget remains more than $6 billion above the spending caps set by last year’s Budget Control Act and doesn’t come close to meeting the levels dictated by the BCA’s sequestration provision that was supposed to go into effect when the deficit reduction supercommittee failed to hammer out a deal. Indeed, although I am encouraged by the large number of Republicans who bucked their leadership and McKeon, it is troubling that any House member who claimed to care about deficit reduction and out-of-control spending by voting for the BCA would then vote for a budget that exceeds those caps. An amendment that would conform with the BCA targets by cutting $7.5 billion from the top line garnered just 24 Republican votes. I haven’t yet bounced yesterday’s roll call against last year’s BCA vote, but members who voted for the BCA but against this amendment seem to be trying to have it both ways.