GUAM – The $303 million the Department of Defense hopes Congress will appropriate this fiscal year to proceed with long-delayed military construction projects for Guam could see some movement in a massive omnibus spending bill that House and Senate appropriators must pass by early next week.
Failure to pass the $900 billion national spending package for a host of federal agencies including DoD would result in a government shutdown when current funding runs out on Dec. 16.
The idea to lump the remaining nine appropriations bills into a single omnibus package, originally proffered by Senate Democrats, now has some traction among House Republican leaders. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) confirmed Friday in Washington the leadership’s willingness to stick to the $1.043 trillion spending level of the August debt-ceiling deal with the White House in order to ensure smooth passage of the omnibus bill.
That said, ideological policy riders could still yet have Republicans and Democrats butting heads. President Obama is warning that certain riders that Republicans may push for – such as any policy to block environmental priorities – could be grounds for vetoing the bill.
Still, ideology could be outweighed by political practicality. With elections coming up next year, no one wants to be seen as obstructionist and bear the blame for a government shutdown.
The Guam 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 Guam military 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. The Senate finally passed its version of the bill last week, setting the stage for a fight with the House over Guam buildup authorizations in bicameral conference.
That bill, H.R. 1540, 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 the omnibus spending package story, see The Hill: Final Government Shutdown Fight Rings Out the Old Year.
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