Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted for the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA usually wins over the majority of the Democratic caucus. Last year, Democrats voted for it 109 to 85. However, this year, the Democratic leadership encouraged its members to vote against it. The full MA delegation rightfully voted against it. (Most of them typically do so anyway.)
There are a few reasons for that. First, the bill puts money into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) slush fund in order to bypass sequestration level spending limits. House Republicans, as we know, want to eliminate the sequester on the military but leave it in place for social spending. The House Democratic leadership also opposed it because of its restrictions on closing Gitmo and a provision that bans DREAMers from serving in the military.
The bill would provide for the authorization of funding for the Department of Defense and other related agencies, programs, and operations for Fiscal Year 2016. It authorizes approximately $605.6 billion in discretionary budget authority in total. This includes $495.8 billion for the Department of Defense base budget and $17.6 billion for the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy.
The bill also includes $89.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), shifting $38 billion in funding from the President’s base defense request into the OCO war funding account. This gimmick goes around the sequester-level defense spending cap, while leaving the non-defense sequester-level cap in place……
The legislation maintains the current restriction on domestic transfers of Guantanamo detainees and prevents the use of funds for construction or modification of U.S. facilities to house Guantánamo detainees. The bill reverts to a more onerous certification standard for the transfer of Gitmo detainees and prohibits transfers to any country in which a previously transferred detainee was confirmed to have re-engaged in armed conflict. It also includes a further restriction on transferring detainees to a “combat zone,” which is defined broadly by an IRS statute.
House Republicans adopted an anti-immigrant amendment, stripping out language that was adopted on a bipartisan vote by the Armed Services Committee related to the consideration of allowing “DREAMers” to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces. This amendment, which only further damages our broken immigration system, is just another in a long line of Republican efforts to demagogue “DREAMers” – the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and know no other home than the U.S. Members are urged to VOTE NO.
The MA delegation unanimously voted against most of the heinous GOP amendments:
- Jackie Walorski (IN-02)’s amendment to extend the constraints on closing Gitmo for two years (beyond the FY 2016 period covered by the bill), bar transfers to Yemen, and bar use of the Defense secretary’s national security waiver authority to transfer prisoners to combat zones.
- Doug Lamborn (CO-05)’s amendment to limit funding for implementing the New START treaty, the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia signed in 2010.
- Frank Lucas (OK-03)’s amendment to reverse and prohibit the further listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened or endangered species until 2021 and to de-list the American Burying Beetle as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
- Mo Brooks (AL-05)’s amendment to strip out the provision of the bill that would have allowed DREAMers to serve in the military.
And they voted unanimously in favor of two good Democratic amendments (which, unfortunately, were shot down by the House as a whole):
- Adam Smith (WA-09)’s amendment provide a framework for closing Gitmo by the end of 2017.
- Jerry Nadler (NY-10)’s amendment to strike the section of the bill that places limits on funding for the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.
However, on three amendments, the caucus split.
Bill Keating and Stephen Lynch voted for Mike McCaul (TX-10)’s amendment to amend 10 USC 2576a to include border security activities to the list of preferred applications the Department of Defense considers when transferring excess property to other federal agencies. 10 USC 2576a currently gives preference to counter-drug or counter-terrorism activities for small arms and ammunition (as well as other military property) transfer. The rest of the delegation rightfully voted against it.
Only Katherine Clark and Joe Kennedy voted for Jared Polis’s amendment to reduce the statutory requirement for the number of operational aircraft carriers the Navy must maintain from 11 to 10. The rest of the delegation voted against it.
Only Katherine Clark and Mike Capuano voted for Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)’s amendment to end the budget gimmickry of the Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (explained here). The rest of the delegation voted against it.