August 03, 2012
Credit: Credit: USAF
The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a $604.5 billion defense bill that was practically obsolete even before it was passed.
“You don’t see me smiling,” said committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) after the bill’s Aug. 2 markup.
The reason: House and Senate leadership have reached an agreement on a six-month continuing resolution that would fund the government at the level ordered by the Budget Control Act passed one year ago.
By next March, half of the fiscal year will be over. And if the election in November shifts control of the Senate to Republicans, the bill could be in for changes. “There would be some additional work,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), the committee’s top Republican.
So far, the agreement on the continuing resolution does not include anything that would avert a $1 trillion, across-the-board government spending cut scheduled to take place on Jan. 2, 2013.
Debate on the defense bill centered more on that penalty for failing to reach a deficit reduction-agreement — sequestration — than it did on the actual defense budget.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered and then withdrew a symbolic resolution to use the recommendations by a commission on deficit reduction led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to buy down at least the first year of sequestration. Then he offered another amendment that would direct federal contractors to notify their employees of potential sequestration-induced job losses. The amendment failed, but it touched off a lengthy partisan discussion about whether or not sequestration is predictable enough for contractors to be bound by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.