November 12, 2019 Update

[New information bolded and italicized]

This week, the primary focus on Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bills is expected on a new Continuing Resolution, a Fiscal Year 2020 funding measure to keep the government open, that is likely to extend the deadline for action until mid- to late December. In the meantime, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said last week that the top appropriators will be meeting this week to work through the unsettled issues preventing passage of the bills — presumably particularly border wall funding and allocations for the 12 appropriations bills.  

Time is short: the present Continuing Resolution runs out on November 21. The President has signaled that we will sign a new Continuing Resolution provided that there are no funding restrictions that he would oppose.

On the other major defense bill, while there has been an exchange of proposals between the House and Senate defense authorization bill conferees on the many provisions in disagreement, there is been little visible progress to resolve differences between competing versions of the $738 billion Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization bill. A reminder that Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) suggested that negotiations on this bill would probably not be concluded until December.

Click here for a listing of major differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.


Key Fiscal Year 2020 National Security Bills


U.S. policy on Syria

On October 16, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) H.J. Resolution 77 opposing the Trump  decision to end U.S. efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria was approved 354-60, with all Democrats and two-thirds of the Republicans voting yes.

The Senate may also take up this issue.


Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Appropriations Bill

It is apparent that controversial issues such as the $174 billion add-on in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, spending on the wall with Mexico and the administration’s attempt to raise military spending and cut non-military spending will make it difficult for Congress to agree on an annual budget resolution, the National Defense Authorization Bill or appropriations bills. There are widespread predictions of deadlock and a Continuing Resolution to fund the government for part or all of next fiscal year.

On May 21, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 defense spending bill by a 30-22 vote. The Visclosky (D-IN) Defense Appropriations Subcommittee had marked-up the bill on May 15 by voice vote. The bill provides $690.2 billion in new discretionary spending authority, an increase of $15.8 billion above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level, and $8 billion below the request.

The total includes $622.1 billion in base funding, an increase of $15.6 billion above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $88.2 billion above the President’s request. It also includes $68.1 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, $96.2 billion below the President’s request. The Committee moved $98 billion from OCO to the Pentagon’s base budget, rejecting what it labeled a $98 billion OCO “gimmick,” and bars Pentagon spending to be used for the “wasteful” border wall.

Appropriators cut $19.6 million intended to support the W76-2 low-yield nuclear weapon, zeroed out research and development funds for three ground-based systems that would violate the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces agreement, cut $187.4 million from the $1.15 billion research request for the ground based midcourse defense system and eliminated requested funds for research on space-based missile defense interceptors. The full Appropriations Committee approved 30-22 a Lee (D-CA) amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force after 240 days. The Committee summary of the bill is here; the text is here; the bill report is here.

On June 18, the House held a long series of votes on the defense portion of the package of appropriations bills. In some critical votes on nuclear weapons votes, the House voted down 192-236 a Gallagher (WI)/Cheney (WY) amendment to restore funding for the W76-2 low yield nuclear weapon for submarines, defeated a second Gallagher amendment 203-225 to add money for INF-range conventional missile systems and rejected  138-289-1 present a Jayapal (WA) amendment to cut off funds for the Long Range Stand-Off Cruise Missile. The next day, the package of appropriations bill was adopted 226-203, with every Republican voting no in major part because there is no bipartisan budget agreement plus the total defense portion was $733 billion rather than the President’s request for $750 billion.

On September 10, the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee easily advanced the bill  with no amendments to the full committee. But on September 12, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the defense appropriations bill by a party-line 16-15 vote. Democratic Senators voted against the bill because the measure permitted the Administration to divert defense and military construction funds to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. A Leahy (D-VT)-Durbin (D-IL) amendments to block the transfer was rejected by another party-line vote 15-16.


Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Bill

On May 22, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization bill by a vote of 25-2. The bill supports the Administration’s request for $750 billion, which compares to the $733 billion that the House is working with. The bill includes $642.5 for the Department of Defense and $23.2 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. The bill also approved $75.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, rejecting the Administration’s controversial request for a larger sum by moving $97.9 billion to the Pentagon’s base budget. Click here for the Committee’s bill summary.

A few details from the bill include acceptance of the Administration’s request to establish a new Space Force under the Air Force, fully funds the nuclear modernization request with some additions, authorizes 94 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft — 16 above the request — and, trying to hem in the Trump administration, bars for one year the withdrawal of U.S. forces from if the U.S. begins to withdraw from NATO and prohibits reduction of U.S. forces in South Korea below 28,500.

After the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup, the House Armed Services Committee took center stage. The House Subcommittee markups are generally quick, pro-forma affairs. However, in the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Mike Turner (R-OH) offered an amendment on June 4 to overturn provisions in the draft bill that eliminated funds for the low-yield nuclear weapons for submarines, authorized 30 plutonium pits rather than the 80 requested, and urged continued adherence to the Open Skies Treaty. The amendment failed 8-10 in a party-line vote, and then all Republicans on the subcommittee oppose the bill.

The full House Armed Services Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Bill in a marathon session that started June 12th in the morning and continued past 6:00 AM the next day. In key votes, two amendments offered by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to authorize funding for the low-yield nuclear weapons for submarines failed on party-line votes 26-30. An amendment by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to raise the amount authorized in the bill to $750 billion from $733 billion failed 27 to 30. Unhappy with the bill, the usually bipartisan measure was adopted by a vote of 33-24, with only two Republicans supporting the legislation.

While waiting for time for the bill to be considered on the House floor, the full Senate took up the bill — in its fashion. n June 27, the Senate concluded consideration of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization bill.The final vote in favor of the bill was 86-8. In an unusual procedure, after the final vote, the Senate voted for a Udall (D-NM)-Kaine (D-VA)-Merkley (D-OR) amendment 50-40 to block war with Iran without prior congressional authorization, but 60 votes were needed for the provision to be adopted. As usual, there were a huge number of amendments offered to the bill — 647 this year — but the Senate remains allergic to recorded votes on most of the controversial issues. Instead, about 84 bi-partisan and non-controversial amendments were added to the bill without a record vote.

After the Senate concluded floor action, the full House took up the bill. On July 12, the House of Representatives completed action on the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization bill. It passed a great number of amendments to produce a bill that varies tremendously from the bill produced by the Senate. At some point, a House and Senate Armed Services conference committee will have to reconcile the two bills, with the goal to produce a measure that the President will sign by the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

During House consideration, the House voted:

  • 251-170 for a Khanna (D-CA)-Gaetz (D-FL) amendment prohibiting unauthorized military force in or against Iran;
  • voice vote for a Khanna (D-CA) amendment urging the U.S. to pursue a sustained and credible diplomatic process to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea and an end to the 69-year-long Korean War;
  • 242-180 for a Barbara Lee (D-CA) amendment repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002;
  • 236-189 for an Engel (D-NY) amendment expressing support for extending the New START Treaty;
  • 215-214 for a Frankel (D-FL) amendment prohibiting funding for missiles non-compliant with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The House also rejected 201-221 a Turner (R-OH) amendment to permit deployment of low-yield W76-2 warhead ballistic missile warheads.  Click here for a more comprehensive list of key House votes.


Fiscal Year 2020 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

On May 21, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal 2020 Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 31-21.  The Kaptur (D-OH) Energy and Water Subcommittee cleared the bill on May 15 by voice vote. The bill appropriates $46.4 billion in Energy and Water programs, an increase of $1.8 billion from fiscal year 2019.

The Committee approved $11.8 billion for nuclear weapons activities, an increase of $661 million above 2019, and $2.1 billion for nuclear non-proliferation, an increase of $145 million above 2019. The bill eliminates the $10 million requested for the W76-2 low-yield nuclear weapon. The Committee summary of the bill is here; the text is here; the bill report is here.

On September 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $49 billion Energy and Water appropriations bill by a unanimous 31-0 vote. Click here for a committee summary of the bill.


Fiscal Year 2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

On May 16, the full Appropriations Committee approved a $56.4 billion State and Foreign Operations bill 29-23. The House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee headed by Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) had approved this measure on May 10. The bill includes $48.4 billion in base discretionary funding for the State Department, USAID, commissions and related agencies – $2.2 billion above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $5.7 billion above the President’s budget request. The committee summary of the bill is here;  the text here; the bill report here.


Fiscal Year 2019 Military Construction-Veterans’ Administration  (VA) Bill

On May 1, the House Appropriations Military Construction-Veterans Administration (VA) Subcommittee bill under Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) approved a $108.1 billion fiscal year 2020 spending bill that, among other issues, would block the Trump administration from redirecting military infrastructure funds toward more border barriers. The total in the bill for military construction is $10.1 billion and $94.3 billion for the VA. On May 9, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill 31-21.


Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Resolution

On March 28, the Senate Budget Committee reported out a budget resolution on a party-line vote that provides $576 discretionary budget authority for defense (not including OCO) in FY 2020, a reduction of $71 billion from $647 billion in FY 2019, and $542 billion for non-defense, a cut of $55 billion from $597 billion in FY 2019. The Committee also approved $67 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations and $15 billion for other programs. The measure is not expected to be brought up for votes on the Senate floor.

On April 3, the House Budget Committee voted 19-17 to raise 2020 budget caps on non-defense spending by $34 billion, to $631 billion, and increase defense spending by $17 billion, to $664 billion in fiscal year 2020. While the full House had expected to vote on these numbers, the House leadership pulled the bill from the House floor due to opposition from both Democratic progressives and moderates.

After extensive negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasurer Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Congress and the Administration agreed on a two year budget deal that also raises the federal debt limit. The deal probably avoids another government shutdown for two years and ends the immediate risk of the U.S. being unable to pay its bills. The agreement increases defense spending by 3% from fiscal 2019 to $738 billion and domestic programs up by 4%. The House easily approved the measure 284-149 and the Senate 67-28.



On April 16, President Trump vetoed S.J. Res. 7, a bill blocking U.S. military involvement in Yemen. The House had passed the measure 247 to 175 and the Senate 54 to 46.

On July 11, as part of House consideration of the FY 2020 Defense Authorization Bill, the House voted  240-185 for an Adam Smith (D-WA) amendment prohibiting support to and participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.


Saudi Arabia

On June 20, the Senate voted to repudiate President Trump’s use of “emergency powers” to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. A bipartisan coalition, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) filed 22 resolutions of disapproval, objecting to both the workaround to the normal congressional role and Saudi leader’s Mohammad bin Salman’s policies in Yemen and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The vote on one resolution was 53-45 in favor, including seven Republicans, and on a package of resolutions 51-45.

On July 17, the House voted three times to block President Trump’s “emergency” weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The vote to agree to one of the resolutions of disapproval was 238-190. On July 24, the President vetoed the resolutions of disapproval. The Senate failed to override the President’s vetoes of the resolutions of disapproval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. There were three votes for parliamentary reasons on July 29, and the third vote was 46-41, with 13 Senators missing the vote. 67 votes were needed for the override to be successful.


Congressional recess schedule in 2019

Thursday, November 21 – Monday, December 2: House and Senate recess
Thursday, December 12: Tentative House and Senate adjournment for the year