07 Feb 2018 | Joe Gould | Defense News
WASHINGTON — Senate leaders have reached a two-year deal that would set defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019.
Not all of the details were announced immediately, as bipartisan talks continued, but sources close to them said spending limits for defense and non-defense combined would be raised by $300 billion over two years.
It’s was not immediately clear exactly how the deal will address budget caps and how much of the defense funding will be sought as cap-exempt wartime funding.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a Senate floor speech the agreement would, “unwind the sequestration cuts that have hamstrung the military and jeopardized our national security.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the emerging deal could be a clean break from the budget dysfunction that has gripped Washington for years.
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“After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship. and it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this congress and hampered our middle class,” Schumer said.
The deal was hailed by defense advocates emerging from a meeting with McConnell on Wednesday afternoon.
“This is too important, I’d rather we didn’t have to do as much on non-defense, but this is an absolute necessity that we’re the numbers [soon to be announced,” said he Senate Armed Services Committee’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) walks towards the Senate chamber at the Capitol February 7, 2018 in Washington, DC. Sen. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that they have reach agreement on a two-year budget deal. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“To those who believe sequestration has done a lot of damage to the military, this is the best news I’ve heard,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, calling the increases “substantial, much needed.”
Graham said the increase would address readiness, a maintenance backlog and manpower increases, saying “This is the biggest step toward rebuilding the military I’ve seen since 2011.”
“There is an increase for non-defense spending, maybe more than some would like, but I’m okay with that,” Graham said. “The FBI could use the money.”
Whether the deal will lift the debt ceiling ahead of a mid-March deadline, had not been finalized, according to the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas.
Lawmakers must still reach an agreement to pass a continuing resolution that averts a shutdown when the last one expires on Thursday.