Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Defense cardinal launches fight against stopgap, spending cuts

February 17, 2017Erik Wasson & Kathleen Hunter

This is an excerpt from Bloomberg Government’s daily Budget & Appropriations Newsletter. Learn more about our 10+ daily newsletters. 

Texas Republican Kay Granger’s new role as the House point person on defense spending begins amid a roiling debate on Capitol Hill over efforts to boost funding to the Pentagon and over President Donald Trump’s intervention in weapons contact negotiations.

Granger’s district is home to the Fort Worth headquarters of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., a division of Lockheed Martin Corp., the nation’s largest weapons maker and the No. 1 government contractor of any kind, according to the BGOV 200. The company has been the subject of Trump’s ire over the cost of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is manufactured in Fort Worth.

In an exclusive interview, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chairwoman praised the president’s success in driving down the cost of the F-35 and said she intends to balance the needs of her constituents who work at Lockheed Martin with the overall needs of the country.

“I have to be careful when I start talking about Lockheed’s planes because I am not the chair of Lockheed,” she said. “It turned out very well. It was sort of a nail-biter for a while.”

She said plans to visit the manufacturing hubs of other major U.S. defense contractors.

In her new role, Granger will help spearhead efforts to pass an emergency defense supplemental to direct as much as $40 billion extra to the Pentagon this year, and a full fiscal 2017 defense spending bill by the end of April.

She said the administration hasn’t yet shared the details of the planned emergency request with her.

To Offset Or Not Offset

Granger warned against a push by members of the House Freedom Caucus to offset the defense supplemental with spending cuts.

Given the need to get at least eight Senate Democrats on board with the bill to avoid a filibuster, “That would make it harder,” she said.

Granger said her first preference is to find fiscally responsible cuts, though she wants to be realistic about how to get the bill enacted.

Congress may attempt to combine the defense supplemental with a bill funding Trump’s promised wall on the southern border.

The fifth-generation Texan expressed skepticism that a wall along the entire border — which could cost $21 billion by one estimate — is needed.

“I think we need to be much stronger about securing our border but be realistic about what works and what doesn’t work,” Granger said.

Much depends on the relationship of Trump and his incoming budget director Mick Mulvaney, who as a South Carolina congressman has fought efforts to exceed caps on defense spending, she said.

Since Trump campaigned on ending the defense spending caps under the Budget Control Act, Granger said she isn’t worried, “Not as long as the president is vocal about what he needs and why it is so important,” she said.

This is an excerpt from Bloomberg Government’s daily Budget & Appropriations Newsletter. Learn more about our 10+ daily newsletters. 

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