The Republican divide over how to fund defense spending deepened this weekend, as Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney soundly rebuked his GOP colleagues for taking advantage of the war fund to avoid sequestration.
“With fiscal concerns no longer in vogue, House Republicans broke the statutory caps of the Budget Control Act (BCA) and did so in a way that wasn’t honest,” Mulvaney, a member of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Deficit hawks have slammed defense hawks over the past week for using the military’s war time contingency fund to jack the budget back up to pre-sequestration levels, all while ignoring enormous amounts of waste at the Pentagon.
McCain has confirmed, however, that even if all waste were eliminated at the Pentagon, defense spending would still need to increase, in order to combat the major threats which have emerged since 2011. (RELATED: McCain Says That Even With Zero Waste, The Pentagon Would Still Need More Funds)
“The story behind the GOP budget has little to do with defending the nation. It has everything to do with the deficit. Put another way: All Republicans want a strong military; not all of us want to pay for it,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney’s remarks put him in square opposition to the administration. Last Thursday at the State Department’s Global Chiefs of Mission Conference, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reprimanded Congress for sliding a large funding package through the OCO, rather than directly removing budget caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. (RELATED: Defense Sec Blasts GOP Defense Budget For Sleazy War Fund) Budget caps come into effect later in October.
The House budget slots $96 billion dollars into the war fund, also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which represents a $38 billion increase in the amount of OCO funding forwarded by President Barack Obama. No offsets would be required under this plan, which upset Mulvaney and other fiscally-minded Republicans. Defense hawks prevailed.
While at first the OCO spending was widely denounced as a gimmick, top Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain soon made peace with the move, saying that embracing a budget technicality is still better than sequestration.
Now that defense budget blueprints have cleared both chambers of Congress, the next stage is to bring the slightly different House and Senate budgets into alignment.