The Senate Budget Committee voted Thursday to boost the Pentagon’s war funding account in the GOP budget in fiscal 2016 to $96 billion, essentially matching the House GOP plan to raise the overall level of defense spending.
The move came after defense hawks in the Senate fought for higher defense spending than caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act would allow.
The Senate budget proposal, unveiled a day earlier, only had $58 billion for the war funding account, but Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced an amendment that would boost that level to $96 billion.
The amendment passed by a party-line vote. However, Congress will need to find an offset for the funds in future defense spending, after base defense spending caps are lifted in 2021.
The war funding account, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, has been used to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now is paying for military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The account falls outside of the base budget and Republicans are relying on it to make up for the defense cuts under sequestration.
The war fund would bring Republicans’ defense budget plan in line with the president’s request of $612 billion, even though it does not lift spending caps on the defense budget.
The president urged the lifting of the caps, and requested $561 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $51 billion for its OCO account, for a total amount of $612 billion.
The Senate budget plan would allow for slightly more than that, without lifting the defense budget caps.
The Senate budget panel approved its blueprint late Thursday in a 12-10 party-line vote.
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SOURCE: The Hill, Martin Matishak and Kristina Wong