President Barack Obama on Thursday asked Congress for $11.6 billion in additional war-related funding, including money to fight Islamic State militants, sustain higher overseas troop levels, and modernize the Afghan military’s helicopter fleet. The request was sent to lawmakers for consideration during the lame-duck session that starts next week. It’s evenly divided between the Pentagon and the State Department and foreign aid accounts related to battling IS.
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“In addition to enhancing our effort to defeat ISIL, this plan would fund the president’s decision to adjust our troop levels to better support the Afghan government’s strategy to secure its nation, and would help enhance Afghanistan’s aviation capability,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “Swift passage of this plan will help the Department of Defense and our partners in the U.S. government and around the world protect this nation.”
The request’s fate in the coming weeks is uncertain. It’s not clear what Republicans controlling Congress want to do about a raft of unfinished spending bills now that Donald Trump has won the White House.
While top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., want to clear away the unfinished budget work _ and avoid cluttering the Trump agenda with this year’s leftovers _ many conservatives hope to win better outcomes next year with Trump in the White House. At the very least, however, Congress must pass a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown next month, which would give lawmakers and the new administration time to hash out a final accord on more than $1 trillion in unfinished bills to fund agency operating budgets.
Before the election, Democrats promised they would try to play a strong hand against GOP moves to beef up the defense budget without comparable treatment for domestic programs. The White House and congressional Democrats insist that additional defense dollars be matched with increases for non-defense programs, and pairing the upcoming Pentagon request with non-defense items that would still fit under the umbrella of security costs could free up money for domestic programs elsewhere.
The military portion includes $2.5 billion to maintain elevated U.S. troops levels of 8,400 in Afghanistan as announced over the summer. About $383 million would pay for air strikes against IS. The request would mean a total of $85 billion in war-related funding for the budget year that started in October.
The $5.8 billion portion of the request for the State Department and the Agency for International Development would help stabilize areas of Iraq that have been reclaimed for the militants, remove unexploded bombs and increase aid for Somalia, among other purposes.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the request was not enough since it “does not accommodate the increased pace of operations against ISIL and does nothing to begin addressing the readiness crisis.”