The Senate Republican leader and a leading GOP voice on defense issues said Wednesday that they will block any short-term bills funding the federal government after the one being considered this week unless they are accompanied by a resolution funding the Defense Department through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced the move during an exchange on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
“We can’t do this to the men and women who are serving to deprive them of the equipment, the training and the wherewithal when we’re in two wars, and it’s vital in my view that we not allow another continuing resolution without addressing the defense appropriations bill ... and we should be for the remainder of the year,” McCain said.
McConnell said he agreed with McCain and added “with total confidence” that both the House and the Senate will not pass any further stopgap funding bills without a longer-term defense appropriations bill.
“I don’t intend myself to support another continuing resolution that does not contain the full-year defense appropriation bill,” McConnell said. “I think everybody understands the urgency of that. My friend from Arizona, our leader, on these issues has been very clear and articulate about it, and I can say with total confidence that the House and Senate are not going to be passing another continuing resolution without the funding for the Defense Department for the remainder of this fiscal year.”
A measure funding the government through April 8 – the sixth such stopgap this fiscal year -- cleared the House on Tuesday and is expected to be approved by the Senate before Friday, when the measure currently keeping the government in operation is set to expire. McCain and McConnell were referring to short-term measures proposed after the one being considered this week.
The next step in the spending battle remains unclear; House Republicans say the Senate must pass a funding bill, while Democrats say the House GOP leadership must come up with a proposal that shows its willingness to compromise.
Members in both chambers have increasingly voiced opposition to any additional stopgaps, as evident in Tuesday’s House vote, when 54 Republicans and 104 Democrats voted against the latest short-term plan.
Many of those who have criticized the recent two- and three-week funding bills have argued that such actions create uncertainty and endanger national security; the Defense Department has reportedly put off equipment repairs and enacted hiring freezes, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for the longer-term defense appropriations bill to be passed even as the broader budget debate continues.
McConnell said Wednesday that he believed his and McCain’s position was shared by House leaders. “I think there is no chance that we will not complete work on the defense appropriation bill in the next few weeks,” he said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also on Tuesday emphasized the urgency of approving a longer-term defense appropriations bill, saying that the measure needs to be part “of the conversation.”