Defense Bill Clears Key Hurdle, Final Passage Expected This Week

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 03: U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House after a meeting with President Barack Obama September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. President Obama told reporters at the beginning of the meeting that he was confident he could get enough votes for his plan for military actions against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
Add to Briefcase
Stacy Kaper
Dec. 18, 2013, 12:25 p.m.

The Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act passed a key test in a 71-29 Sen­ate vote Wed­nes­day, clear­ing the meas­ure’s path to pas­sage as Con­gress races to fin­ish the bill be­fore year’s end.

The an­nu­al bill that au­thor­izes $552.1 bil­lion in spend­ing for na­tion­al de­fense and $80.7 bil­lion for Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions, is con­sidered crit­ic­al for guid­ing De­part­ment of De­fense pri­or­it­ies. It provides pay in­creases for mil­it­ary mem­bers, au­thor­izes health care be­ne­fits, provides ad­di­tion­al au­thor­ity for a Pentagon pro­gram to des­troy Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons, and re­quires ad­di­tion­al as­sess­ments of Ir­an’s glob­al net­work of ter­ror­ist and crim­in­al groups.

Wed­nes­day’s clo­ture vote was a key test for the meas­ure, which has run in­to Re­pub­lic­an ob­jec­tions over a pro­ced­ur­al pro­cess that did not al­low for amend­ments this week.

Some Re­pub­lic­ans have ex­pressed out­rage that they were denied the abil­ity to have a full de­bate on amend­ments to the meas­ure on the floor earli­er this year. The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee passed its bill in June, but the full Sen­ate did not take it up un­til just be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans were un­able to work out an agree­ment to con­sider most amend­ments.

In or­der to avoid al­low­ing the au­thor­iz­a­tion bill to lapse at the end of the year, House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee lead­ers worked out a com­prom­ise in a pre-con­fer­ence an­nounced last week. That agree­ment af­forded the Sen­ate the op­por­tun­ity for only an up-or-down vote on the meas­ure.

Law­makers have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that the agree­ment has pre­ven­ted a de­bate on Ir­an-sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion, and oth­er pet is­sues like an amend­ment from Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand, D-N.Y., that would take the de­cision of wheth­er to pro­sec­ute sexu­al as­saults out of the chain of com­mand.

“By deny­ing the Sen­ate the abil­ity to le­gis­late, de­bate, and amend the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, the De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Act, and ad­di­tion­al Ir­an sanc­tions — and by re­fus­ing the Sen­ate the abil­ity to vote on the au­thor­iz­a­tion for the use of force against Syr­ia — the ma­jor­ity lead­er has ab­dic­ated this cham­ber’s con­sti­tu­tion­al role in shap­ing and over­see­ing na­tion­al-se­cur­ity policy,” said Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., on the floor Wed­nes­day.

Fights on those is­sues are ex­pec­ted to re­sur­face next year.

This bill does in­clude oth­er re­forms to com­bat mil­it­ary sexu­al as­sault by provid­ing a vic­tims’ coun­sel and re­mov­ing the power of com­mand­ers to over­turn sexu­al-as­sault con­vic­tions, among oth­er re­forms.

The bill also takes steps to­wards Pres­id­ent Obama’s goal of clos­ing the Guantanamo Bay de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity by al­low­ing for­eign trans­fers of de­tain­ees.

The House ap­proved the de­fense bill last week on a vote of 350 to 69. After the Sen­ate’s fi­nal pas­sage, the bill will move to pres­id­ent’s desk for sig­na­ture.

Jordain Carney contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
2 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
2 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
2 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login