Senate passes Defense Budget, Hopes to Avoid "Drama"

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Washington Report

Congress has an early start in completing a budget process before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The Senate passed a defense budget for fiscal 2019 of $675 billion last week that included $68 billion for overseas contingencies.

The House, which passed a similar defense budget in June, returns from an August recess next week. The two chambers must reconcile the defense budget and other spending bills before the end of September to avoid a continuing resolution or government shutdown.

The Senate bill was part of a spending package totaling $857 billion that included funds for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education. It passed 85-7.

The defense funds are in line with the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act passed last month by Congress, Military Times reports. The deal includes a 2.6 percent pay hike and $720 million for new AH-64E Apache helicopters.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate majority leader, said of the defense budget prior to the vote Thursday, “The funds meet many of the requirements of our military commanders, equipping and training units to meet and to overcome the most dangerous of emerging threats. As ever, we are to provide adequate training, weaponry and skills so that Americans always prevail on the battlefield.”

McConnell said the goal is avoid the “kind of drama” that has marked the end of recent fiscal years. He was referring to a string of delayed budget deals resulting in continuing resolutions that use the previous year’s budget line to fund the government, preventing the start of any new programs. Also, a shutdown, which is also an option if a budget deal isn’t reached, prevents military members from getting paid and closes various programs.