Senate Democrat Tries To Block War On Terror Funds Until Lawmakers End Sequestration

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Democratic Sen. Jack Reed has moved to block the use of the emergency war fund to bypass budget caps with a new amendment to the defense bill.

As ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rhode Island’s Reed argued that legislators need to go back to the drawing board and move the $89 billion dollars in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) back to the base budget. The OCO was previously known as “The War On Terror.” The defense budget currently stands at $523 billion, The Hill reports.

“In fact, I would say if we don’t start this process now, if we don’t send a strong signal — and my proposal would send that strong signal — then I am afraid we’re be just victims of the calendar,” Reed said.

For Reed, the problem with the OCO is that it makes budgeting over a multi-year period incredibly difficult, meaning that legislators should simply remove the specter of sequestration. If Congress followed his plan, Reed added, lawmakers could avoid the painful process of a White House veto.

On Tuesday, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid emphasized that President Barack Obama wasn’t making idle threats when he stated that if GOP leadership moves forward without reducing the OCO and increasing non-defense spending, he’ll simply veto the whole bill.

Non-defense spending and the OCO are just two contentious sticking points between the two sides, as highlighted by the president. The administration wants base-closures, and the bill pushes back. Republican Sen. John McCain wants to reform the Pentagon’s acquisition system, and the administration pushes back.

Another point of contention between Congress and the White House is the attempt by the House’s version of the annual defense spending bill to block closure of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.

In response, Arizona’s McCain lashed out at the president for trying to interfere with the budgeting process. Although McCain said that he doesn’t want to rely on the OCO either, he’d prefer budget gimmicks to letting troops go without the resources they need to complete their mission. But fiscal hawks on the GOP side have made it tremendously difficult to propose removing sequestration altogether or returning to a Murray-Ryan-esque budget deal, which provided temporary sequestration relief in 2013. (RELATED: McCain To Obama: Quit Threatening To Hold The Defense Budget Hostage)

GOP Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell also struck back at attempts to thwart the legislation on Wednesday, stating, “Blocking this bill is not in our national interest. So let’s skip the partisan games and start working toward common-sense reforms, as this bill proposes.”

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