GUAM – Democrats in the U.S. Senate announced Monday in Washington that they intend to push through legislation that lumps together overdue 2012 appropriations bills — including ones affecting funding for the Guam military buildup — into a single, massive omnibus spending package.
The bill is expected to draw the ire of Tea Party Republicans, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he wants to end Congress’s chronic habit of funding the federal government through temporary extensions or continuing resolutions. Democrats argue there is no need for further delay in passing appropriations, nor any reason to prolong the budget drama, as the legislation will reflect the $1 trillion spending level already agreed to between Mr. Reid, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this year.
The elusive national budget is a spending package of 12 appropriations bills, only three of which have been passed. Two of the undecided bills in particular — H.R. 2055 for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs, and H.R. 2219 also known as the Department of Defense Appropriations Act – contain money essential for Guam buildup projects. Both bills have been held up until the House and Senate can meet in joint conference to agree on compromise versions.
The money at stake includes $155 million for Marine Corps military construction projects in H.R. 2055, and $33 million for buildup-related civilian infrastructure projects in H.R. 2219. The Senate has opposed this money for the buildup while Mr. Obama, the Pentagon and the House have insisted the funding be retained in order to push through with the troop realignment agreement between the U.S. and Japan. The buildup is meant to prepare Guam to receive thousands of Marines that Japan wants transferred away from Okinawa to reduce that island’s troop hosting burden.
Congress is also overdue to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act. H.R. 1540 defines Defense policy by sanctioning military activities for construction, as well as personnel and other purposes. It goes hand-in-hand with budget appropriations measures, as both authorization and budget are needed for Pentagon activities, including Guam military construction and the Marine relocation.
For more on Mr. Reid’s omnibus spending bill and Tea Party reaction, see this story in The Hill: Senate Dems Plan to Move $1 Trillion Omnibus in December.
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