CAPITOL HILL: “I do not think a year-long CR will pass the House,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told reporters this afternoon. Full-year CRs aren’t that common, but the last few years have usually seen Congress, incapable of passing timely appropriation bills — which is one of their most basic and important jobs — instead passing a CR or two or three each year for the past eight years.
Defense lawmakers have been especially unhappy with this pattern because a CR generally means new money can’t be added and spending holds at the previous year’s levels. “I do not believe the people who sit in this (HASC hearing) room would support a year long CR,” Thornberry said.
Of course, this doesn’t address the issue of repealing sequestration, which President Trump and other senior Republicans have said they support.
The HASC chairman, looking relaxed through most of the session as he leaned back in his chair, did say he worried that the Trump administration needs to get moving on its Pentagon staffing, saying that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “so far doesn’t have anyone else in a Senate-confirmed position to help.” Bob Work, Deputy Defense Secretary under the Obama administration, is serving as acting deputy. None of the five Office of Secretary of Defense undersecretary jobs have been filled by Trump, let alone the deputy assistant secretaries who often make many of the policy choices that drive the building day-to-day.
On Russia, Thornberry made clear the gulf between many on Capitol Hill and the Trump White House. He ticked off the deployment of the new Russian cruise missile, a violation of the INF Treaty; the spy ship sailing off the East Coast; and other acts by Russia. “There has been a series of provocations by Russia for years,” he noted. “I do not think this all of a sudden came out of the sky after January 20.”
Appearing on CNN this evening, Thornberry said he expected the White House to send a supplemental defense spending bill to Congress, “which would go a long way to show that we’re willing to stand up for ourselves, partly to counter what Russia and others have been doing.”