Republicans Prove They Can’t Govern As Military Funding Bill Collapses Into Chaos

The ghost of chaos past haunted the House Wednesday night, as Republicans tried desperately to navigate around their own sequestration level spending caps in order to appease the war hawks in their party.

Republicans slipped a nifty $532 million deficit-funded credit card to the DoD to get around the Republicans’ own spending caps – only to be busted by both a Republican war and budget hawk and a Democrat who wants to return to the way budgets are supposed to be done, pre-sequester days.

It was a clustermuck of epic proportions, immediately recognizable as the House that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) runs. Naturally, the vote was “stalled”.

Emma Dumain reported how the cluster went down for Roll Call, noting that Republicans have been bragging about their early start to appropriations season, “but consideration of the very first spending bill — considered the least controversial of all 12 annual measures — hit a snag Wednesday night.” Republicans tried to float innocuous reasons for giving up, but Roll Call got the real scoop.

But several senior House aides, including those who work in leadership offices, confirmed to CQ Roll Call that part of the reason for stalling MilCon-VA votes had to do with GOP leaders’ anxiety that members on both sides of the aisle were prepared to adopt an amendment that would strip from the underlying bill the ability to spend money from the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

This was all put an end to by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who used amendments to kill the secret money:

House Republican leaders included that $532 million account to make the spending bill, which is limited due to sequester-level spending caps, more attractive to defense hawks who insist the Pentagon needs more cash to fight terror. But Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., teamed up on three related amendments to eliminate the ability to use the money.

Mulvaney (the Republican) was not impressed, objecting that the money wouldn’t be used on war-related matters, noting that there was not enough money under the (Republican) spending caps imposed by sequestration:

“It spends $532 million in the OCO budget for matters that the Department of Defense admits are not war-related,” said Mulvaney, a two-term budget hawk who said last month he’d rather raise taxes than add to the deficit.
“These are matters that the Department of Defense included in its original base defense budget request, but which there isn’t enough money under the … caps,” he said during House floor debate earlier Wednesday. “The appropriators have taken those requests, which are admittedly not war-related, and buried it in this appropriations bill using the OCO money.”

Van Hollen (the Democrat) said in a statement reported by Roll Call that there was clearly bipartisan objection “to using the Overseas Contingency Operations budget as a slush fund for non-war related projects.” He called for a return to the debate process.

Last night’s cluster is awkward since Republicans have been bragging that they are starting the appropriations process super early. Woo hoo! They were going to get to work finally and do something. Republicans announced that they were starting early to avoid “another Washington-made cliff.” Apparently “Washington-made” is way of saying “Republican-made”. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction Projects appropriations bill was meant to kick off Republicans showing America “YES THEY CAN GOVERN!”

Yet, on their first go out of the gate, Republicans are already mired in the quicksand of their own flawed fiscal beliefs, being called out by a Republican no less, who would prefer to raise taxes rather than add to the deficit, proving that not all Republicans are immune to the realities of math.

The takeaway here is that Republicans continue their sequester spending caps because they allow them to avoid facing debate about issues that are not popular with the public. Instead, they plan to sneak money to their pet causes behind everyone’s back, while pandering to voters with falsehoods about their fiscal restraint. Austerity, as imposed by sequester level spending caps, will continue for everyone else.

There have been no new updates thus far on Thursday. The stalled vote is stalled still.

Sarah Jones

Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here. Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump. Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with Sarah on Post,  Mastodon @PoliticusSarah@Journa.Host, & Twitter.

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