The conference committee is nearly certain to side with the Senate version, which passed by a huge bipartisan majority, 868, with six of the seven Democratic senators running for president being absent from the vote because they were campaigning.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (Republican from Oklahoma) expressed satisfaction with the House action, even though he is opposed to nearly all the liberal amendments. Praising his Democratic counterpart Adam Smith, he said, "We both have the commitment. We've got to get a bill." He explained, "The main thing that I wanted out of the House was to get something out of the House into conference, and then we can go to work."
Meanwhile, back-channel talks are continuing between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration on legislation to raise or waive the caps on spending for both the Pentagon and domestic social programs, set by the 2011 deficit-reduction law and scheduled to take effect once again on October 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Under the 2011 law, mandatory cuts of about $125 billion would be imposed on fiscal 2020 spending, automatically reducing the Pentagon budget to $576 billion and discretionary domestic spending to $543 billion. The spending caps do not apply to Oversees Contingency Operations -- wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and drone warfare throughout North Africa and the Middle East -- currently accounting for about $70 billion. But the effect would be to impose a significant cut in military spending rather than the 4 percent rise proposed by the Senate.
The budgetary impact of the 2011 law, the September 30 deadline for passage of 12 appropriations bills for various federal departments and agencies, and the impending breach of the federal debt ceiling -- now estimated by the Treasury to take place in early September -- mean that the Democratic Party will soon be called upon to take actions that will further expose its pretensions to be fighting Trump or defending the interests of working people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Co. will be ratifying higher military spending and further cuts in domestic social programs, while refusing to use the financial crunch as leverage against Trump's vicious attacks on immigrants and more broadly on democratic rights.
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