House panel passes amendment to block new round of Pentagon base closures

The House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment in the Defense authorization bill that prohibits new rounds of the Base Realignment Closure Commission (BRAC) by a vote of 44 to 18, with 14 Democrats joining Republicans to support it, and 5 GOP members opposed.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Rob WittmanRob WittmanFive races to watch in 2017 VA Dems jockey for Kaine's seat Virginia governor contenders ready for battle MORE (R-Va.), says that “none of the funds” in the act “may be used to propose, plan for, or execute an additional BRAC round.”

The committee’s ranking member Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithTax fairness critical to sustaining growth of energy sector Dems press White House counsel on Flynn firing Dems ask Ryan to invite Australian leader to address Congress MORE (D-Wash.) led the sparse opposition to the amendment, saying that BRAC is unpopular but a necessary move to cut excess budget costs.

He particularly took issue with the amendment for tying the hands of the Pentagon to plan for future base closures.

“We just want to protect our stuff, and I understand that’s what’s driving this,” Smith said at Wednesday’s markup. “To simply cut off the debate and say DOD can’t do this and can’t even think about it, I think is irresponsible.”

But Wittman questioned whether now was the time to undergo new BRAC rounds when the Pentagon is in the midst of cutting $487 billion from its budget over the next decade, because there are up-front costs associated with BRAC.

One committee member who opposes BRAC, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), still opposed Wittman’s amendment. Kline, a retired Marine, said he was concerned about including the words “plan for” in the prohibition on BRAC, arguing that the military is constantly planning and shouldn’t be stopped from discussing future base closures.

“Because of those two words I reluctantly can’t support the amendment,” Kline said.