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Trump Touts Military Pay Raise That Congress Has Yet to Pass

President Trump walks on the South Lawn as he returns back to the White House in Washington, Dec. 15, 2017, from a trip to Quantico, Va. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) -- The Associated Press

President Donald Trump bragged to the Marines Friday on the proposed 2.4 percent military pay raise, even though it's not a done deal.

In exuberant remarks to the Marines of Helicopter Squadron One, who fly the presidential helicopters, Trump also jokingly resurfaced the nickname "Mad Dog" -- for Defense Secretary and retired Marine general Jim Mattis.

"I love that name. I don't know if he likes it, actually. I've never figured out if he likes the name," Trump said, "but he really deserves the name."

Actually, he doesn't like it. Shortly after he took over as Defense Secretary, Mattis met off-the-cuff with a group of Pentagon reporters. He was asked about the "Mad Dog" nickname Trump had been using. Mattis made clear that "just Jim" was fine with him.

Trump's wide-ranging remarks on nicknames, pay raises, ballcaps, Afghanistan, the defense budget, the fight against ISIS, and his win over Hillary Clinton came in a stop at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, on his way to an FBI graduation ceremony.

"This week, I signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes major investments in weapon systems, equipment, and, most importantly, in you," Trump told the Marines.

"I'm pleased to report this legislation also includes the largest pay raise you have received in more than eight years," Trump said of the proposed 2.4 percent raise.

He joked that "I guess I'm a bad negotiator." He also did not mention that the White House initially proposed a pay raise of 2.1 percent.

However, the raise and the entire defense budget is caught up in the perennial battle in Congress over continuing resolutions and tradeoffs between military and domestic spending.

The military currently is operating at 2017 spending levels under a continuing resolution that expires on Dec. 22, raising another possibility of a government shutdown.

Congressional leaders have proposed another continuing resolution into next year that would fund the military at 2018 levels of nearly $700 billion, while keeping domestic spending at 2017 levels. It was unclear whether the administration had the votes in the Senate to pass the proposal.

The back and forth in Congress did not stop Trump from touting the $700 billion for defense.

"You know, we just approved -- our enemy is in trouble -- we just approved $700 billion, which is the largest ever approved," Trump said.

"We got it done, and we're giving you new equipment," he said. "We're giving you new everything, because we got depleted over the last eight years."

He said that a rebuilt military would have even more success against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria under the rules of engagement he has promoted giving field commanders wide latitude in their use of force.

"You know, we've made tremendous success and had tremendous success now with getting rid of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I let them do their job," Trump said.

"You don't have to call the White House when you're getting ready to fight. You know, in the old times -- the last administration -- you called the White House and you get approval. Not anymore. Not anymore," he said.

Trump also had unstinting praise for the Marines of Helicopter Squadron One, whose helicopters become "Marine One" whenever the president is aboard.

"For more than half a century, Marine Helicopter Squadron One has served as one of the most visible symbols of the presidency," he said.

"Today, there are few sights more awe-inspiring than Marine One flying up the Potomac -- true, incredible -- past the Washington Monument and landing on the South Lawn of the White House. It's an incredible privilege to take that flight."

"I remember the first time I got on Marine One. Air Force One, Marine One -- I said, which was better? I wouldn't tell you. You know why? Because I don't want the word to get back to some other people," he said, prompting laughter from the Marines.

"But I felt very, very good about our country. I'm very proud of our country when I got that first flight and every time I get on it. So I appreciate the job you do," Trump said.

To show how much he appreciated it, Trump donned a ballcap. "So they gave me this hat. It says: 'Presidential Helicopter Squadron.' Would you wear it? Now, no other President would do this. But I will, because I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you -- what the hell."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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