This week, the House will consider a government funding bill that concludes a months-long effort to provide certainty and full funding to our military. Republicans pledged that with control of Congress and the White House, we would begin to reverse the damage done to our Armed Forces over the last decade. In fact, after passing tax reform, Speaker Ryan declared that rebuilding the military his top legislative priority. And this bill fulfills that promise.
Along the way, we had to overcome policy roadblocks, partisan foot-dragging, Democrat-led government shutdowns, and a series of continuing resolutions that impair military planning and threaten readiness. But no longer. Finally, we can give our men and women in uniform the resources they deserve and end the cycle of dangerous funding-by-CRs. Here’s a look back at the long fight that is about to come to as successful end.
MAY 4: Congress passes a funding bill that covers the remainder of fiscal year 2017. Notably, it begins to boost funding for defense without matching increases in non-defense spending. This breaks an arbitrary, Obama-era standard that contributed to the hollowing out of our Armed Forces. “While we have much more work to do to fully rebuild our military, this is a critical first step,” Speaker Ryan says.
JULY 27: The House passes a full defense funding package for fiscal year 2018. Two weeks later, Secretary Mattis warns Congress about the damage short-term continuing resolutions would do to the military, noting that “it just creates unpredictability. It makes us rigid. We cannot deal with new and revealing threats.” Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refuse to consider the bill.
SEPTEMBER 14: The House again passes the defense funding bill, this time as part of a package of all 12 appropriations measures. “We need the Senate to work with us to get these bills on the president’s desk,” Speaker Ryan says. Senate Democrats threaten to block defense funding, and Congress is forced to pass a continuing resolution.
NOVEMBER 30: Congress completes a national defense authorization bill that outlines a commitment to historic increases in defense funding. It passes in a large bipartisan vote. Senate Democrats, however, continue to block the military funding bill that corresponds with that authorization, deciding they would rather use our troops as leverage for other priorities. By the end of 2017, Congress has to pass two more continuing resolutions.
JANUARY 18: In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Speaker Ryan says “right now, our men and women in uniform are operating under enormous strain, some of which, frankly, is of our own making. That is why rebuilding our military is one of the highest priorities of our unified government. I can tell you it is my highest priority today.” He goes on to call for “an adequate budget agreement that fully funds our troops.”
JANUARY 19: Democrats make good on their threat to block military funding over an entirely unrelated issue, blocking another continuing resolution and shutting down the government. Republicans refuse to negotiate with Democrats during the shutdown, making clear there is nothing for Democrats to gain by using our troops as bargaining chips. Ultimately, Democrats agree to re-open the government, but unfortunately we continue to operate under a continuing resolution.
JANUARY 30: For the third time, the House passes a defense funding bill, adding even greater pressure on Democrats to stop holding this funding hostage. At a press conference that morning, Speaker Ryan again calls on Democrats to allow military funding to go forward.
FEBRUARY 6: Secretary Mattis urges Congress to act on military funding, telling the House Armed Services Committee, “We need Congress to lift the defense spending caps and support a budget for our military.”
FEBRUARY 7: With pressure growing and the shutdown strategy proven fruitless, Senate Democrats relent on holding troop funding hostage and reach a deal with Republicans on a budget agreement that allows us to fully fund the military.
FEBRUARY 9: Over the opposition of House Democratic leaders, but in a victory for our men and women in uniform, Congress passes a budget agreement paving the way for the resources to rebuild our military. It ensures that our national defense will no longer be subject to reckless budget caps, and definitively ends the Obama-era practice of tying increases in defense spending to non-defense spending. House and Senate appropriators immediately begin the process of writing a bipartisan funding bill to complete the process.
MARCH 20: After five continuing resolutions, Congress finalizes a critical funding bill that includes the biggest increase in defense spending in 15 years. It gives much-needed stability to the Pentagon, allowing Secretary Mattis to move ahead with plans to increase troop levels, upgrade weapons systems, and address readiness shortfalls. At a press conference, Speaker Ryan calls it “a new era for our nation’s military.”