House Republicans writing the party's annual budget proposal this year found themselves with an impossible circle to square. Conservative spending hawks insisted that the GOP stick to the budget ceiling Congress imposed four years ago, while the party's other hawks—those who prioritize a robust national defense above all else—demanded that the plan pour more money into the Pentagon as it fights a new war against ISIS.
"This is a war within the Republican Party," the always-understated Senator Lindsey Graham told The New York Times. "You can shade it any way you want, but this is war."
Seeking an armistice in this war over war spending, the new House GOP budget chief, Representative Tom Price of Georgia, turned to an old accounting gimmick that both Republicans and Democrats have decried in previous years. He allocated an additional $94 billion (18 percent more than the base defense spending of $523 billion) to a separate budget known as the "overseas contingency fund" that was first used to finance the war on terrorism after September 11. The off-the-books emergency war fund allows Republicans to boost total defense spending over the budget proposed by President Obama, who simply ignored the legal caps currently in place. As Politico's David Rogers writes, the GOP budget is "a sweeping end-run around" the ceiling that Congress itself established in 2011 as part of a deal to avoid a default on the nation's debt.