Lewis Statement on the Mark-Up of the FY 2009 War Supplemental

Apr 12, 2011
Press Release

Lewis Statement on the Mark-Up of the FY 2009 War Supplemental
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Appropriations Committee today will mark up the Supplemental Appropriations Act for 2009. The proposed legislation provides $94.2 billion in funding for U.S. military efforts, international diplomatic programs, pandemic flu response, and other national emergencies. 
House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis praised the general outline of the bill and its focus on providing necessary emergency funding for U.S. troops and military operations without arbitrary benchmarks or timetables that tie the hands of military commanders. However, Lewis also has several concerns with the bill, including overall defense funding reductions and the “off-loading” of funding for non-defense programs into the bill that should normally be funded within the regular appropriations process.
“Overall, this is a good piece of legislation that reflects a bi-partisan effort to provide necessary war funding and essential support for our men and women in uniform,” Lewis said. “We have come a long way from policies that would limit the flexibility and support of our military commanders, and while I have several concerns with portions of the bill, I believe passing this funding quickly and getting it to our military leaders is the priority.”
Lewis indicated that one of his primary concerns is the significantly smaller increase in funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) compared to the level of likely increases for other federal agencies and programs in the FY 2010 Appropriations bills. While some of the reduction in DoD funding can be attributed to a draw down in activity in Iraq, the Obama Administration has simultaneously announced a new, comprehensive military focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, making adequate DoD funding even more essential.
“The war is changing fronts and we face large unknown obstacles, continuing threats, and hidden enemies. Now is not the time to drastically decrease funding for our military in order to spend more on lower priority government programs that have nothing to do with protecting our people or our principles,” Lewis said.
In addition, Lewis objected to non-emergency funding included in the supplemental that should more appropriately be included in regular appropriations bills. This “off-loading” of regular program funding is a method to increase overall spending by circumventing budget rules and providing extra headroom for additional spending in regular appropriations bills. For example, the supplemental contains $2.6 billion in spending for programs normally funded within the annual State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. By funding these programs in the supplemental, money in the regular Fiscal Year 2010 State and Foreign Operations bill will be freed up and used for other purposes.
“Skirting rules and increasing spending by calling part of it ‘emergency’ isn’t a responsible or appropriate way to budget, and isn’t fair to the taxpayers who are footing the bill,” Lewis said. “We have public commitments from House and Senate appropriators and leadership to get our appropriations work done on time and in the proper process this year, so there should be no reason why we need to forward-fund regular programs in an emergency war funding bill – especially given the massive increases provided in the Democrats’ budget.”
Another item of concern is the future of the detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay prison. President Obama included $80 million in his supplemental request to begin closure of the facility – a move that Lewis and House Republicans oppose. However, the version of the bill in mark-up today does not include the President’s request for additional funding.
“While I support eliminating the funding to close Guantanamo, I am concerned about the intentions behind it. I would hope that the funding wasn’t simply removed for political purposes. It would be a great disappointment if Obama Administration is engaging in a political shell game by using underhanded funding transfers to pay for closing Guantanamo and moving detainees to American soil without congressional involvement or approval,” Lewis said.
Lewis also expressed opposition to the proposal to shift control of the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) – totaling $400 million in the bill – from the Department of Defense to the State Department.
“This program uses our military resources to train and equip the Pakistani military to fight against terrorism. This is a military-to-military effort, and it seems illogical and counter-productive to have it administered by State Department that has little expertise in this kind of training and that could potentially tie up the effort in red tape and bureaucratic hoops,” Lewis said.
While maintaining that these problematic issues need to be addressed, Lewis also expressed tentative support for the final legislation.
“The bottom line is that our troops need these funds to continue doing their jobs, and we need to make sure that we provide them with every necessary tool to continue their fight to protect our country and our ideals,” Lewis said. “I am optimistic that we can work through differences of opinion on the legislation in Committee and on the House Floor, so we can get these funds out the door quickly and responsibly.”

112th Congress