The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday narrowly passed a $612 billion war spending bill, relying on a back-door slush fund to dodge the austerity cuts that are gutting domestic programs from education to health care.
The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 269 to 151, largely along party lines. The roll call can be viewed here.
The budget circumvents cuts passed in 2011, known as “sequestration,” by shifting $89 billion into theOverseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Fund, which was first created in 2001 as an “emergency” fund for the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The OCO was supposed to temporary but has since become a permanent fixture that allows the military to sidestep cuts—and maintain seemingly limitless war spending.
Many Democrats voted against the bill—and President Barack Obama threatened to veto it—because of its reliance on the OCO to circumvent budget sequestration. “We will not let defense out from under the budget caps and keep everything else under it,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Thursday.
However, historically Democrats have also consistently pressed for historically high levels of military funding, and the total amount of $612 billion is, in fact, in line with what the Obama administration requested for the 2016 budget. Furthermore, Obama’s initial proposal had called for nearly $51 billion to be placed in the OCO.
Some Republicans signaled they believe military spending should be limitless. “Whatever our troops need to get the job done, they should get it, and the House has acted to provide just that,” said John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Analysts say this year’s budget fight brings a critical question to the fore when it comes to Pentagon funding: Is the OCO slush fund here to stay?