A fired-up Sen. John McCain said Thursday he plans to oppose the omnibus appropriations bill, largely because of a provision apparently embedded in its classified annex that would prevent President Obama from his goal of transferring drone authority from the CIA to the Pentagon.
"It will make me vote no," the Arizona Republican told reporters. "I can't support legislation that affects national security in such a profound way.... There's a number of issues, but this certainly is a deciding factor for me."
The provision was reported by The Washington Post, and McCain said he was angry he had to learn of the measure that way, which he argues unfairly straps the hands of the Armed Services Committee members.
"A secret annex on an appropriations bill?" said McCain incredulously. "Appropriators are supposed to authorize money. This is a making of a major policy concerning our war on terror, and it's hidden in a secret annex."
McCain said that his opposition to the spending bill was not because of the merits of the drone policy but because it was inappropriate for appropriators to meddle with other committee's policy areas.
"I'm not opposed or for the policy. What it requires is hearings in the Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee," McCain said. "So that everybody has their input and we can reach a conclusion. There are arguments to be made on both sides. But an arbitrary decision by members of the Appropriations Committee who are not well-known for their expertise on national security and make a major decision of this magnitude, shows: 1) arrogance; 2) how broken this process is."
Sen. Thad Cochran, the vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee said in an interview he did not realize the provision would cause a fight.
"I did not know that was a problem," he said, but he added he was not counting on McCain's vote anyway. "He rarely votes for appropriations bills."
But the Mississippi Republican said he was happy to hear McCain's view.
"If his view is something not necessary is in the bill, we'll have an opportunity to work it out with the other body in conference," Cochran said. "We always listen to his advice, he's a good senator."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said he could not comment on the provision or confirm whether it was in the bill, because the subject is classified.
The Michigan Democrat said he does have some concerns with the legislation, although he could not say whether they were related to the drone provision, but he said he still plans to vote for it.
"Oh, yeah, sure," Levin said.
This article appears in the January 17, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.