President Donald Trump cited a 2.4 percent military pay raise Wednesday in signaling his initial support for an omnibus spending bill aimed at avoiding a possible government shutdown at midnight Friday.
Trump spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, on their "shared priorities" in the proposed bill, "which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Congress has developed an omnibus $1.3 trillion spending bill for all government functions, including nearly $700 billion for the military and $591 billion for non-defense funding, but partisan feuding on health care, immigration and other issues could force adoption of yet another continuing resolution to allow time for agreement to be reached.
Since failing to reach agreement on the fiscal 2018 budget last Oct. 1, the government has shut down twice briefly and Congress has passed five continuing resolutions in a thus far unsuccessful effort to find consensus on a spending bill. The latest continuing resolution runs out at midnight Friday.
At a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday on the budget, the three service secretaries said they need the additional promised funding immediately under a two-year plan that would give the Defense Department $700 billion this year and $716 billion in fiscal 2019.
The secretaries testified that there's enough money in the proposed spending bill to rebuild the military, but they need the money now to address shortfalls in readiness and modernization.
"We look forward to getting those resources as soon as possible," said Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer. "We desperately need this new appropriations bill."
Army Secretary Mark Esper agreed.
"We must have predictable, adequate, sustained and timely funding," he said. "Fiscal uncertainty has done a great deal to erode our readiness and hamper our ability to modernize."
Paraphrasing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the budget cuts under the sequester process "did more damage to the United States Air Force and our ability to defend the nation than anything our adversaries have done in the last 10 years; we did it to ourselves."
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, the ranking member of the committee, noted that political bickering over "actually passing those appropriation bills been going on for 14 months. This is an enormously important opportunity. There's a lot of money there, so we have to be sure to spend it wisely."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.