WASHINGTON — A House panel voted Thursday to authorize additional funding for flood recovery efforts at Offutt Air Force Base.
GOP Rep. Don Bacon pushed the House Armed Services Committee to add the $2.3 billion overall in military base recovery money to its $733 billion annual defense policy bill.
“I made it clear upfront I was going to throw down,” Bacon told The World-Herald later. “I was going to pound the table on this one.”
The Omaha-area congressman said Offutt could expect to see about $300 million of the total, which also covers recovery efforts at other bases struck by natural disasters, such as the Hurricane-ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
That recovery funding was initially included in the legislation, Bacon said, but pulled out at the last minute.
It appears some on the committee thought the afflicted bases would be taken care of by funding included in the recently passed disaster relief package. Bacon said that money represented only a portion of what is needed.
He argued for restoring the money as the committee debated many amendments to the bill throughout the day Wednesday, then late into the night and then into Thursday morning.
Ultimately, the committee agreed to restore the recovery funding as part of a package of amendments adopted shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday. The marathon session wrapped up around 7 a.m.
Among other provisions authorized by the legislation:
The panel voted 33-24, largely along party lines, to advance the legislation to the House floor.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recently passed its own version. The bill still must be approved by the full House and the Senate before heading to the president’s desk.
Bacon was one of only two Republicans on the committee to vote for the bill. Other Republicans objected to a number of specific provisions, as well as the overall funding total — they wanted $17 billion more.
Bacon said that top-line number was less of a concern for him than a couple of individual provisions — restrictions on any expansion of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and limitations on addressing the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ultimately, Bacon said, he appreciated that the bill would not completely shutter Gitmo. But he said the restrictions on using defense funding or troops at the border could be deal-breakers for him if that language remains in the final version.
Bacon said he agrees with Democrats’ argument that President Trump should address the border through the regular process of funding the Department of Homeland Security.
But he said Democrats have made that impossible by refusing to compromise with the White House.
“The president, I think, feels his back is against the wall on what’s going on at the border and he feels like he has to go to the military and they’re taking those tools away,” Bacon said.