House Democrat optimistic defense bill will block Trump’s Germany withdrawal
A Democratic congressman is expressing optimism that the final version of the annual defense policy bill will limit President Trump’s ability to move forward with his Germany withdrawal.
“I believe we can win this in conference committee,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told reporters on a conference call. “It’s still gonna require a lot more work and effort, which is why we’re having this press conference here. But it certainly has its momentum, and I can’t imagine I’m the only person hearing from our European allies about this.”
Gallego and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) sponsored an amendment in the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would block funding to reduce the number of troops in Germany until the Defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff separately certify that reducing the number of American troops in Germany is in America’s best interest and would not significantly undermine U.S. and allies’ security, among other criteria.
The amendment was approved by the House Armed Services Committee in a bipartisan 49-7 vote.
The amendment’s inclusion in the House NDAA came after Trump in June announced a drawdown in Germany as punishment for Berlin not spending more on defense.
NATO allies agreed in 2014 to each spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but Germany is not on track to meet the goal.
In July, Defense Secretary Mark Esper outlined a plan to fulfill Trump’s order by withdrawing about 11,900 of the 36,000 U.S. troops in Germany. About 5,600 of them will move elsewhere in Europe, while about 6,400 will return to the United States. Some of those coming back to the United States would become rotational forces that return to Europe.
Esper and other Pentagon officials have insisted the drawdown is a strategic realignment of forces, but Trump has continued to blame Germany’s defense spending.
The plan has been bashed by lawmakers in both parties. But it has at least one important defender: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is a key negotiator for the final NDAA.
Congress has not officially formed a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill, but staffers from each chamber’s Armed Services Committee have been informally negotiating.
In supporting his optimism that his amendment will survive conference negotiations, Gallego cited that a bipartisan amendment similar to his was introduced when the Senate considered its NDAA.
The amendment, led by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, did not receive a vote in the upper chamber.
Gallego also highlighted the House Armed Services Committee’s September hearing on the issue, during which skeptical lawmakers from both parties grilled Pentagon officials.
“The presenters were thoroughly, I would say, rattled by the bipartisan questioning,” he said. “And the conclusion that came from that was that there was no rational reason for this.”