Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is urging fellow Republicans to back higher defense spending for fiscal 2016.
There is "pretty broad-based support" for an increased defense budget in the House, the Texas Republican said, pointing to 70 Republicans who told Speaker John Boehner last month they wouldn't support any budget blueprint that goes below the president's request.
President Barack Obama has proposed spending $561 billion next year on defense. "I cannot see a circumstance where the Republican Congress would pass a defense budget that's lower," Thornberry told Bloomberg reporters and editors in Washington.
House Republican leaders are struggling to find a compromise between spending-cut advocates and defense hawks on how to increase U.S. war funding in their budget for the year that begins Oct. 1.
Republicans "could be stupid" politically during budget negotiations, Thornberry said, because if they don't support more military funding Obama could start "blaming his policy failures on us for not giving him the money he asked for."
Looking ahead, the chairman said spending caps could be raised through a 10-year plan that would initially increase both defense and domestic spending and then in later years "moderate the increase" so that funding stays deficit-neutral.
The goal would be to give the Pentagon time to change the way it manages its purchases and compensates its employees.
"It's essential that we reduce overhead in the Pentagon," Thornberry said, adding that the Pentagon also would have to become ready for a full audit of its books.
Still unresolved in Congress is the president's request for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, to combat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"I am of the view that a time limit is OK" for the new war authorization, because a deadline would force Congress to reassess the authorization. The administration has proposed a three-year limit.
So far, though, "nobody is standing up for the language the president has proposed" including him, Thornberry said, as lawmakers dispute provisions such as what's meant by a ban on "enduring offensive ground combat operations."
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