Defense hawks defeated budget hawks in the House Wednesday night, by passing a 2016 budget plan that calls for more defense spending and doesn't require that additional spending to be offset with cuts.
The House vote on a 2016 budget plan followed a week in which Republicans fought among themselves about whether to stick to the budget caps that were set back in 2011, or find some way around those caps to boost funding for the military.
The initial plan proposed by the House Budget Committee stuck to the budget caps, drawing opposition from other Republicans who say it's time to start rebuilding the military after years of cuts. That prompted Republicans to send two proposed budget amendments to the House floor.
One of these was the Budget Committee plan to balance the budget in nine years, by cutting more than $5 trillion in planned spending. To get around the budget caps, that plan also increased the Defense Department's overseas contingency operations fund, or the OCO fund, to $94 billion, but it required most of that increase to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.
The decision to boost a fund normally used to wage war was criticized by some as a way to funnel money to the Defense Department outside the budget caps — some accused Republicans of setting up a slush fund. Defenders of the decision, however, argued that it's a way to ensure funding for ongoing anti-terrorism efforts around the globe.
But defense hawks on the House Armed Services Committee went further by demanding even more money. They forced Republicans to consider a separate proposal that would provide $96 billion in OCO funding, a $2 billion increase. The Armed Services budget also eliminated language requiring spending offsets.
Republicans set up votes on their dueling budget plans under a procedure that would allow each version to be considered as an amendment. It wasn't even close.
The budget committee amendment failed 105-319, as most Republicans opposed it along with every Democrat — Republicans split 105-139 on this proposal.
The Armed Services Committee amendment then passed in a 219-208 vote in which only a few dozen Republicans voted against it. Passage of that amendment set up a final vote in which the budget was approved in a 228-199.
The split drew a significant distinction between defense hawks and Republicans more worried about the fiscal state of the federal government and the growing national debt. Members like Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said the Armed Services plan would open the door to stuffing more money into the OCO account in order to avoid the spending caps.
"The Armed Services Committee's budget lays the foundation for more spending from both parties, hundreds of billions of dollars of new debt, and tax hikes," he said. But Amash was marginalized by a clear majority of GOP members.
Despite the split among Republicans, GOP members easily banded together to defeat several Democratic proposals to ensure a budget would pass that fits the broad outlines of what Republicans are after. The GOP plan that passed would spend $3 trillion in 2016, and only allow spending to rise to $3.7 trillion by 2025.
While that plan would still allow $21 trillion in national debt by 2025, it would slow the growth of government spending and allow the budget to balance by 2024, if everything goes according to plan.
In contrast, the mainstream Democratic budget plan would spend $3.1 trillion in 2015, and spend $4.7 trillion by 2025. That plan also called for a tax hike, and it failed in a 160-264 vote.
The House also killed budget plans from the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus that proposed even higher tax hikes and more spending, in votes that saw dozens of Democrats vote "no."
The only other Republican option out there this week was one from the Republican Study Committee, which would have balanced the budget in just six years, instead of nine.
But as expected, scores of Republicans voted against that version, and it failed 132-294.