McCain Says Secret Drone Provision Will Cost His Vote on Omnibus

McCain: Balks at "baked in" overruns.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
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Stacy Kaper
Jan. 16, 2014, 9:26 a.m.

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.

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