4 November 2015 Legislative News Update

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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Thursday when Congress is in session.








The House of Representatives has called off a vote to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, deciding to instead move directly to a vote on a revised version that includes the $5 billion in cuts outlined in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement passed by Congress last week.

The revised National Defense Authorization Act is on target to be passed by week’s end, and is expected to be signed by the president.

The Army loses about $450 million in readiness-related funds as a result of the cuts.

The readiness cuts—$250 million from active-duty accounts and $192.6 million from the National Guard—are part of a deal that allows the 2016 defense budget to grow by $33 billion over 2016 rather than the $38 billion increase requested by the Obama administration and preferred by many defense hawks in Congress.  The result is an overall defense budget, including overseas contingency operation funds, of about $599 billion, with about $126 billion allocated to the Army and its various components.

With the adjustments, the Army will receive about $26.8 billion in the base budget for operations and maintenance of the active force, $2.7 billion for the Army Reserve, and $7 billion for the Army National Guard.  An additional $11 billion in operations funding for the Army is in the overseas contingency budget.

The revised budget also includes about $16.3 billion for Army procurement, with $5.8 allocated to aircraft procurement.  The Army will receive about $7.1 billion for research and development.  The single biggest adjustment made in the budget to shave the $5 billion was a $1 billion reduction in fuel and energy costs that is expected to have no real impact on the military because of lower fuel prices.

The National Defense Authorization Act, as revised, still calls for the Army to drop by about 15,000 active-duty soldiers in fiscal year 2016, along with an 8,200 reduction in the National Guard and a 4,000 reduction in the Army Reserve.


Legislative Riders:  In legislative procedure, a rider is an additional provision added to a bill or other measure under the consideration by a legislature, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill.  Riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill.

Lawmakers are turning their attention to funding the government either by passing the 12 annual appropriations bills or, more likely, passing an omnibus spending package.  Regardless of the vehicle they choose, the measure must be passed by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.  Their only other recourse would be another continuing resolution which is not an attractive option for the Defense Department.

Let the bickering commence! 

In response to comments made by the GOP leadership, Democrats have already signaled their willingness to confront Republicans over legislative riders that could be attached to the spending package.

Earlier this week, the newly-installed Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in response to a reporter’s question about policy riders that, “This is the legislative branch and the power of the purse rests within the legislative branch and we fully expect that we're going to exercise that power.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that, “Riders in appropriations bills are quite common.  The Democrats will have some, too.  Of course, there will be some riders in the appropriation bills.  I’m having a hard time remembering one that didn’t.”  He added: “At the end of the day, there will be some riders.”

Democratic leaders were quick to point out that legislative policy riders or “poison pills” would cost their support and could lead to a government shutdown.   

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lowered the rhetoric some by saying that, “It’s time for Mr. McConnell and Speaker Ryan to really show us their riders.  And Democrats should do the same.  Let’s put them out there and take a look at them.  Let’s have an honest negotiation.”

The clock is ticking.