Defense

House set for big vote on defense

Greg Nash

The House is expected to pass a $612 billion defense policy bill on Friday despite last-minute opposition from Democrats and a heated debate over illegal immigrants in the military.
 
The legislation’s biggest test came Thursday night, when members approved an amendment from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) that removed language from the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could have opened the door for the children of illegal immigrants to serve in the armed forces.
 
{mosads}The vote split the GOP conference, with a group of dissenting members, many from heavily Hispanic districts, arguing that so-called “Dreamers” should be allowed to enlist.
 
The amendment to remove the language passed 221-202, with 20 Republicans crossing party lines to vote against it.
 
The immigration vote indicated Republicans will stick together and pass the NDAA on Friday despite the likelihood that most Democrats will oppose it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders said they would vote against the bill because it pumps an additional $38 billion into the Defense Department’s war fund with no offsets.

Pelosi blasted out a “Dear Colleague” letter late Thursday evening urging her caucus to unite against the defense legislation.

“The Republican defense authorization bill before the House is both bad budgeting and harmful to military planning — perpetuating uncertainty and instability in the defense budget, and damaging the military’s ability to plan and prepare for the future,” she wrote. 

The budget maneuver is a way around spending caps set for the Pentagon in the 2011 Budget Control Act, but the bill leaves the limits in place for domestic spending, a move Democrats have labeled a “gimmick.”
 
“Our national security is being put at risk because we are honoring the sequester in this bill,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “I will vote against this bill until we fix the sequester and take care of America’s national security.”
 
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) argued Congress shouldn’t hold up the defense authorization while the dispute over sequestration remains ongoing.
 
“The idea that we would hold the military and pay and their weapons and the policies involved hostage in the hopes we can put enough pressure to have the president and Congress somehow come together to fix these other problems, I just think that’s unrealistic,” Thornberry said.
 
A version of the defense policy bill has passed Congress for 53 consecutive years. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday blasted Democrats for threatening the legislation, calling it a “shameful” maneuver.

“This shouldn’t be a tough vote, but incredibly, after helping to pass this bill though committee by a vote of 60-2, Democrat leaders have pulled their support,” Boehner said at a press conference.
 
“Democrats are now saying they support our troops before they oppose them. You have to ask them, but I think it’s downright shameful that they’re even contemplating turning their backs on American troops,” he added.
 
The White House earlier this week threatened to veto the policy roadmap for a litany of reasons, chief among them being the increase to the war fund and language that would reinstate restrictions on the administration’s ability to transfer detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
 
The administration also criticized the bill for ignoring many of cost-saving measures included in President Obama’s initial budget proposal, such as another round of base closures and the retirement of the Air Force’s A-10 “Warthog” fleet. 

Tags Boehner John Boehner Mo Brooks

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