Republicans offer false choice between clean water and national security

Republicans offer false choice between clean water and national security
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When I first arrived in Iraq we did not have armored vehicles and shiny new guns. We fought with whatever we could get our hands on. I was inserted on critical sniper missions, but rode in humvees you could pierce with a blunt screwdriver. I know what it feels like to be overlooked and underfunded, but today is different. We have the opportunity to outfit our troops with the best equipment and vehicles to do the most important job, protecting the safety and wellbeing our country.

Serving in the U.S. Army I faced tough challenges and my fellow soldiers and I had to make some hard choices. But we also put the interests of the country and our fellow Americans before any personal or professional gains. That same dedication to the public should extend to our elected representatives in Congress. Sadly, instead of making the tough calls, our leaders in Washington would rather push false narratives and hold the funding process hostage to advance controversial policies that would never pass muster moving through the regular legislative process.


Americans should never have to choose between clean drinking water and fully funding our service members and our veterans. Unfortunately, that is the choice congressional leaders are forcing their fellow lawmakers to make with an attempt to rollback critical clean water protections as part of a bill to fund our military. Congress insists on pairing a military funding bill with the repeal of the Clean Water Rule, they will be complicit in trading the quality and safety of millions of Americans drinking water and our national security — for the benefit of special interests and corporate polluters.


The Clean Water Rule safeguards drinking water for one in three Americans. Recently, Republicans and the Trump administration have repeatedly attacked the rule and ignored the critical role it plays in keeping our communities healthy. Our service members and their families cannot afford to wait for the resources they need to do their jobs, but by adding extraneous and controversial policies to must-pass spending legislation Republicans are muddying the waters and undermining our national security.  

Attempting to dismantle clean water protections politicizes funding that has rightfully remained above the political fray for decades. We should look to leaders like Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey MORE (R-Ariz.), also veteran, who has consistently demonstrated that there is no place for partisan politics when it comes to providing the necessary resources for our fighting forces. Recently, McCain said in a statement that he is “proud that over the last four years, members of the committee have upheld the Senate’s finest traditions, embraced regular order, worked within our peculiar rules and customs, and accepted the necessity of compromise.”  

Jamming policies that threaten the health of our environment into a defense spending bill flies in the face of McCain’s sentiments. This is yet another example of Republicans selling-out the health of our communities to special interests. To add insult to injury, contaminating this funding package undermines the patriotic ideals Senator McCain has fought to uphold and saddles Congress with an impossible choice between protections for clean drinking water and our national security.

As a veteran, I am deeply disappointed that Republicans would offer such a false choice in order to advance their own political agenda. Pitting clean water for our families against funding for military families and veterans is a reckless and irresponsible way to govern. Unfortunately, I cannot say I’m surprised. For the past several years, Republicans have tried to undermine the National Defense Authorization Act — another critical bill that supports our service members and their families — by attaching unrelated policies that sell out our wildlife, public lands, and outdoor recreation opportunities to special interests.

Instead of threatening our military readiness and putting the health of our children at risk, Congress should pass a clean funding bill that provides for our military and veterans without repealing the essential water protections that millions of Americans rely on.

Garett Reppenhagen is the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division OIF veteran, Rocky Mountain West coordinator of the Vet Voice Foundation.