Battles Over the Pentagon's Budget Are Likely This Week
Both chambers of Congress will work on defense authorization measures this week.
Congress is thinking globally this week.
Fresh off of a Senate victory last week clearing the way for Congress to review a final Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers in both chambers will get to work authorizing the country's armed forces while the bulk of the week on the Senate floor will be devoted to international trade.
The Senate's "fast track" measure would give President Obama significant advantage in finalizing a massive trade deal currently under negotiation with 11 Pacific and Asian countries. Because the president is at odds with some two-thirds of his own party on the issue, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the floor debate is likely to stretch out for at least a week. Republicans generally favor the deal.
The biggest issue facing the House this week will be an annual defense authorization bill to authorize funding for the military, including operations in Europe, Iran, and the Middle East. The bill passed the House Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly on a 60-2 vote, but that doesn't mean there won't be some significant spats on the House floor. The most closely watched debate will be over use of the Pentagon's war account to fund its strategic operations. House Democrats and some conservatives don't believe the "slush fund" should be used for basic military needs, but the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund is seen by defense hawks as a way around the punishing budget caps the Pentagon must comply with as a result of sequestration.
The influence of a freshman Republican who also happens to be a retired Air Force colonel will be of interest in the House defense debate. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona successfully fought for the survival of an old warplane dubbed the "Warthog" in committee over the objections of the Air Force, which is seeking to retire the plane. Whether her amendment survives on the House floor is a good barometer of how much Congress can overrule the budgetary priorities of the military.
In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee will begin deliberations on its own defense authorization bill with new chairman John McCain at the helm. The bulk of the Senate's committee debate will be closed to the public, which has irritated journalists and open-government advocates, who note that the House Armed Services Committee markup was open. McCain claims, however, that with just one week to finish the massive bill, it is too difficult to clear everyone out of the room for the classified portions of the debate and then bring them back when those talks are over. The Senate committee's markups of readiness, emerging threats, and personnel will be open to the public and the press.
This will be a week of summits for President Obama as he tackles two of the most intractable problems facing the country — poverty, and violence and extremism in the Middle East.
He starts off the week with an event designed to encourage investing in young and women entrepreneurs around the world to take on problems like climate change, poverty and extremism. The meeting will also preview Obama's trip to Africa this summer for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya.
On Tuesday, Obama will go to Georgetown University to meet with more than 120 religious leaders for what is called the "Catholic-Evangelical Summit on Overcoming Poverty." On Wednesday, he will open a two-day summit with leaders from the Persian Gulf. That night, he will host dinner at the White House for the heads of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. On Thursday, the leaders will move their talks to Camp David.
Friday, Obama finishes his week with remarks at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol.
Read more about this week's agenda on National Journal.
Clare Foran, Jason Plautz, Eric Garcia, Caitlin Owens, Kaveh Waddell, Dustin Volz and S.V. Dáte contributed to this article.
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