Our own Gordon Adams predicted back in February that this year’s political dynamics might lead to an uneventful defense appropriations process, and his prediction is proving true so far. As shown in the graph below, Congressional appropriations committees have been completing markups of defense, foreign operations, and military construction bills unusually early this year. The House committee has already approved bills for all three, and the Senate committee has finished its markups of all but the defense bill.
Just how fast are the appropriations committees moving? Consider these facts:
- After failing to approve defense bills 2 of the last 4 years and foreign operations bills 3 of the last 4 years, the House Appropriations Committee approved both on May 17th, the earliest it has done so this century.**
- The House committee’s markup of the military construction bill on May 16th was the second earliest in the 21st century, bested only by a May 10th markup for FY 2007.
- The Senate Committee on Appropriations’ markups of the military construction bill on May 22nd and the foreign operations bill on May 24th were the earliest since FY 2001, when it approved both of these bills on May 9th.
- Defense, foreign operations, or military construction bills have only made it through committee in May a total of 7 times in the past 12 years, broken down into 4 for FY 2001, 2 for FY 2007, and 1 for FY 2006. Put another way, when Congress last came close to getting defense and international affairs bills out of committee this early, Bill Clinton was President, Barack Obama was a state senator, and the federal budget was in surplus.
There obviously remains a long way to go before these bills become law, and prompt work by appropriations committees hasn’t always translated into a swift appropriations process. For example, although all of the FY 2007 appropriations bills had made it out of committee by late July, Congress ultimately resorted to continuing resolutions for the entire fiscal year for all but Defense and Homeland Security. With major decisions on debt reduction unlikely until after the elections, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Congress pass a continuing resolution to put off some appropriations decisions until after November.
*State was included in the Commerce, Justice, and State (now Commerce, Justice, and Science) appropriation through FY 2005 in the Senate and FY 2007 in the House prior to being merged with Foreign Operations. Dates marked for “State and Foreign Operations” prior to the consolidation of these appropriations reflect only the date of markup for Foreign Operations, not the date for Commerce, Justice, and Science.
**Appropriations were enacted by the full Congress even though the committee did not produce a bill for consideration.