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July 16, 2018 Update

[New information bolded and italicized]

The big news this week is there is little new national security legislative news. House-Senate conferees are trying to work out a combined Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Authorization Bill and the “minibus” appropriations package including Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans and Legislative Branch. Both conference committees hope to complete and pass final versions by the end of July.

There is no word when the next major national security legislation will be on the Senate floor: the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill.

Key Fiscal Year 2019 National Security Bills

Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget requests $617.1 billion for the Defense Department’s annual “base” discretionary budget, which is more than $90 billion higher than FY 18 enacted levels. This amount does not include certain other security spending, including funding for nuclear weapons-related work in the Department of Energy. Nor does it include an additional request of $69.0 billion for the Pentagon’s portion of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account – also referred to as “war funding.” Including all of these accounts, the total national defense discretionary spending request is $714.9 billion.

On June 7, the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved the $674.6 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill. Click here for a committee summary of the bill. The full committee approved the bill on June 13 by a 48-4 vote. An amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force was rejected 22-30. Appropriators also rejected, 24-27, an amendment from Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) to bar funding for the deportation of military service members shielded by the Obama-era DACA program.

On June 28, the House passed the bill by a 359-49 vote after lawmakers adopted an amendment to bar the Pentagon from doing business with the Chinese telecom firms ZTE and Huawei. An amendment by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) to eliminate funds for a new space-based missile defense system failed 160-251.

On June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill by a vote of 30-1. The Committee approved by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to delay spending for deployment for a new low yield nuclear weapon for submarines, pending completion of a report.

Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Bill

All House Armed Services subcommittees approved their portions of the Fiscal Year 2019 bill on April 26. Click here for the Strategic Forces Subcommittee section of the bill. On May 9, the full House Armed Services Committee marked up the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Bill. H.R. 5515 is available here.

On May 24, the full House approved the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Bill by a vote of 351-66 after considering a number of amendments. The bill’s topline funding of $717 billion for the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy’s defense activities, and other defense spending is similar to the Trump Administration’s request.

A Garamendi (D-CA)-Blumenauer (D-OR amendment to withhold half of the $65 million authorized for a low-yield submarine-launch nuclear weapon failed 188-226. An Aguilar (D-CA) amendment to require that the Pentagon provide Congress the cost of building and maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile over a 20-year span was defeated 198-217. A Polis (D-CO), Blumenauer (D-OR) amendment reducing the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons account by $198,000,000 went down 173-239.

On May 23, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the same bill in a 25-2 vote. The committee summary of the bill can be found here

After Senators deadlocked on which amendments could be offered, the Senate concluded consideration of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Bill on June 18. The Senate approved the bill by a 85-10 vote. There were over 630 amendments submitted to the bill, but there were only a handful of roll call votes and 44 non-controversial amendments adopted en bloc. Senators blocked each other amendments because they could not get votes on their own amendments.

Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

The Administration Fiscal Year 2019 budget authority request for atomic energy defense activities is $23.1 billion, an increase from the Fiscal Year 2017 enacted level of $21.4 billion.

On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee marked-up the Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Bill, which includes funding for nuclear weapons (not delivery systems) and defense nuclear nonproliferation programs. The bill and report can be found here and here. According to the committee-released summary, the bill is $1.5 billion above the Fiscal Year 2018 enacted level and $8.2 billion above the President’s budget request.

During markup, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered and withdrew an amendment to strike the NNSA request of $65 million for the W76-2, the low-yield nuclear weapon, and move the funds to the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account.

On June 8, the House approved by a 235-179 vote a “minibus” package of three appropriations bills, including the Energy and Water bill. A Lee (D-CA) amendment to cut funds for a new low yield nuclear weapon was defeated 177-241.

On May 24, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $43.8 billion Energy-Water appropriations bill by a 30-1 vote. The bill is funded at $566 million above fiscal 2018 levels and $7.24 billion above the Trump administration’s request. Click here for an Appropriations Committee summary of the bill. During the markup, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) offered an amendment to cut the $65 million request for the low-yield nuclear weapons, but lost 12-19.

On June 25, the Senate completed action on a “minibus” appropriations package — combining more than one fiscal 2019 appropriations bill — including Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans and Legislative Branch. The bill was approved by a vote of 86-5. There were no major changes to the bill on the Senate floor. The House has already passed its version.

Fiscal Year 2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

The Fiscal Year 2019 Department of State and US Agency for International Development request is $38.7 billion, a huge decrease from the Fiscal Year 2017 enacted budget of $55.6 billion.

On June 20, the House Appropriations Committee  approved the fiscal year 2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill on a vote of 30-21. The legislation funds the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development, and other international activities. The bill provides $54 billion, the same as the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. Click here for the committee summary.

Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF)

The last three Presidents have relied on outdated AUMF’s from 2001 and 2002 to justify numerous overseas engagements. These measures have been a substitute for Congress’s Constitutional authority to declare war, which has not happened since 1941. There are been a number of abortive attempts to pass a new AUMF to put the Congressional imprint on the wars against ISIL and other terrorist groups. Senators Corker (R-TN), Kaine (D-VA), Young (R-IN), Nelson (D-FL), Flake (R-AZ) and Coons (D-DE) introduced an updated AUMF in April. The bill attracted quick opposition from the left, the White House, the Pentagon and Speaker Ryan. It’s fate is uncertain at best.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has introduced another proposed AUMF. Click here for a summary of principles of his bill.

In the House, Reps. Coffman (R-CO), Gallego (D-AZ), Bacon (R-NE) and Panetta (D-CA) are also promoting an updated AUMF bill. Last year, the four introduced H. J.Res. 118 to provide Congressional authorization guidelines for the use of military force.

Fiscal Year 2019 State Department Authorization Bill

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), who has announced his retirement, introduced a bipartisan Department of State Authorization Act of 2018. The bill codifies and authorizes several State Department offices and bureaus and, in reaction to former Secretary of State’s Rex Tillerson’s reorganization efforts, provides for greater congressional oversight of future reorganization plans. It has been years since Congress last passed a free standing State authorization. However, an expected easy adoption of the measure in the Committee in April had to be postponed over adding abortion provisions to the bill.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Resolution

Neither the House or Senate will produce a Budget Resolution this year, as the funding levels have been set in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget deal earlier this year.

 

Key Fiscal Year 2018 National Security Bills

Fiscal Year 2018 Defense/Omnibus Appropriations Bill

On the evening of March 21, the House-Senate conferees finally finished and filed the massive 2,232 page Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill at a total cost of $1.3 trillion. Defense was one of the major sections of the bill. With the latest Continuing Resolution running out and a recess about to start, the House leadership rushed the bill to the House floor. On March 22, the House passed the bill by a 256-167. The Senate followed suit early in the morning of March 23 by a vote of 65-32.

 

Congressional recess schedule in 2018 

On June 5, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he was canceling most of the Senate’s planned August recess.

Thursday/Friday, June 28/29 – Monday/Tuesday, July 9/10: Congressional recess
Thursday, July 26 – Tuesday, September 4: House recess
Friday, August 3 – Monday, August 13: Senate recess (subject to change)
Friday, September 14 – Tuesday, September 25: House recess
Friday, October 12 – Tuesday, November 13: House recess
Friday, October 26 – Tuesday November 13: Senate recess
Friday, November 16 – Monday/Tuesday, November 26/27: Congressional recess
Thursday/Friday, December 13/14 – end of year: Congressional recess