Dems, GOP craft backup for stalled defense bill

House wants to cover pay raise for troops, new ships and aircraft
Associated Press
Dec 6, 2013

Facing a standoff in the Senate, the top Democrats and Republicans on Congress' military panels are working on a backup plan to ensure that they complete a far-reaching defense policy bill before year's end.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, expressed optimism on Thursday that they could agree with their Senate counterparts on a pared-back bill that would cover a pay raise for troops, buy new ships and aircraft and address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.

The Senate and the House have only one legislative week to work out their differences before the House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13. A version of the bill remains stalled in the Senate, caught up in a dispute over amendments.

"We have to have this done," Smith told reporters. "A whole lot of bad stuff happens if we don't pass this by the end of the year, in terms of military pay, in terms of death benefit compensation, in terms of military construction projects and on and on and on."

Under the fallback plan, the House would quickly pass a new, precooked bill and send it to the Senate.

Although the Senate could change it, any move would jeopardize swift action with no time for the House to accept those changes. Ideally, Smith said, the Senate would approve the new House-passed bill without amendments and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature before the end of December.

This process means some of the more controversial issues that the Senate wants to vote on would have to wait until next year, including a new round of sanctions on Iran, steps to rein in the National Security Agency's spying and aid to Egypt.

Asked what would be the path forward for completing a bill this year, McKeon said simply, "The Senate."

The defense bill is one of several items in a busy year-end agenda for Congress that also includes a budget bill and renewal of food stamps and farm programs. Congressional negotiators are pursuing a modest deal before year-end to ease the automatic spending cuts that are squeezing both the Pentagon and domestic federal programs.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would withhold support from any compromise to ease across-the-board cuts until Republicans also agree to renew expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, adding a major complication. At the same time, conservatives are balking at a proposal to raise fees on airline tickets to pay for TSA agents as part of an agreement, another hurdle.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, are preparing a backup plan for averting another government shutdown in January if there's no budget deal by then.

The Obama administration wants to avoid any congressional votes on a new batch of tough penalties on Iran just weeks after world powers announced a deal to temporarily freeze Iran's nuclear program. At this point, no votes are expected, but a clearer picture will emerge when the Senate returns next week.

Smith said contentious issues that were in the House bill that passed in June or in the Senate bill approved by the Armed Services Committee this past summer could end up in the new, stripped-down bill. Among them would be how to handle terror suspects held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and steps on dealing with sexual assault in the ranks.

"Iran sanctions was not in either bill so we can't airdrop (that) in," Smith said.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was determined to avoid a vote on sanctions as negotiators held talks in Switzerland. Reid also wasn't keen on replaying a fight over the health care law, opening up contentious issues such as government spying or allowing probably the last bill out of Congress this year to become a magnet for other matters.

"Everyone has to understand this is not going to be an open amendment process," Reid told his colleagues as he sought to limit amendments and wrap up the $625 billion defense measure after some three days of debate.

That stance was described as a power grab by frustrated Republicans who demanded they be allowed to offer amendments and get votes on them — the norm for decades on a bill that represents half the nation's discretionary budget.

That stalled the bill, the latest traditionally bipartisan measure to fall on the hard times of a fractious Congress.

McKeon, who is in talks with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, said he was confident about getting a deal on a new bill.

Not only is the defense policy measure at stake, but lawmakers' streak. Congress has passed a defense authorization bill for 51 years straight.

Comments

Dr. Information

Pay our heroes.

Fromthe419

Pay our heroes, but stop the ever growing reach of the Military Industrial Complex. 53 cents of every tax dollar collected goes to the Pentagon, when you include SSI, Federal Pensions and debt servicing there is not 1 penny left for governance of this Nation. We will soon have to decide if we want a military or a government that actually governs. Do you all realize, that 100 percent of what our government does is on borrowed money? When you take military spending, SSI, pensions and debt servicing there is no money left for everything else our government does?

SamAdams

There's plenty of money for the military. Or rather there WOULD be if the government's priorities weren't upside down (and, as usual, filled with pork and WTH items)!

I also note that a major contributor to the hold-up is cited as being amendments. I've long supported the "one subject at a time" act as well as the "read the bills" act. The former would prohibit any proposed measure from having ANY amendment attached to it if that amendment wasn't directly part and parcel of the larger bill's focus. The latter requires that members of Congress be given adequate time to read a given bill prior to any vote.

I suspect that the fact that, though both of these bills have their supporters, NEITHER has gained enough traction for a full hearing says quite a bit about the state of Congress these days. Which, Fromthe419, is why the money collected is too much and goes to too many of the wrong places (don't even get me STARTED on the massive amounts of money the various and sundry government entities "can't find!").

Darwin's choice

This was an E Mail I received...

"Interestingly enough, when GWB was president you heard about the the military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan almost daily. With Obama in the White House, the mainstream media has been strangely quiet.

More than 1,000 American soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan in the last 27 months. This is more than the combined total of the nine years before. Thirty died in August. During the last month, over 50 additional NATO and US servicemen have been murdered, inside jobs by those who are hired to be a force for good in Afghanistan .

The commander in chief is AWOL. Not a peep, although he ordered the White House flag flown at half-staff for the Sikhs that were killed. There is a deep disgust, a fury, growing in the ranks of the military against the indifferent incompetence of this president. It has taken on a dangerous tone. No one knows what to do about him, but the anger runs deep as the deaths continue with no strategic end in sight to the idiocy of this war. Obama has had 4 years to end this futile insanity, during which time he has vacationed, golfed, campaigned, and generally ignored the plight of our men and women in uniform. But, there is now a movement afoot in the armed services to launch a massive get out the vote drive against this president and not just with current active duty types, but the National Guard, Reserves, the retired, and all other prior service members. This is no small special interest group, but many millions of veterans who can have an enormous impact on the outcome of the November election if they all respond.

The million military retirees in Florida alone could mean an overwhelming victory in that state if they all show up at the polls. While this won’t keep additional U.S. Troops from dying between now and November, a turnout to vote by the military against this heart breaking lack of leadership can make a powerful statement that hastens a change to the indifference of this shallow little man who just lets our soldiers die."

toredown11

Maybe the author of the e-mail that you received should watch CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America and the major networks nightly newscasts. I do and sadly I hear about these tragic losses every day. Could it be that they heard more about the deaths when Bush was in office because during the Bush years over two times more troops were killed? Yes, it's true:

IRAQ
Under Bush: 4222 US troops killed
Under Obama: 264 US troops killed

AFGHANISTAN
Under Bush: 620 US troops killed
Under Obama: 1662 US troops killed

TOTAL
Under Bush: 4842 US troops killed
Under Obama: 1926 US troops killed

I find it very unfortunate and almost sickening that any American would think that the Commander In Chief of this great nation doesn't feel anything but grief when any US soldier is killed, whichever party that president is from. I strongly feel that the Iraq war was unnecessary, illegal and a complete failure of American foreign policy, but I don't think Bush was happy about the fact that over 4000 of his troops were killed.

Another reason that the author of this e-mail may not be hearing about the death of the troops is because so much air time is spent on the Republican's manufactured Benghazi controversy. Every day that I turn on Fox News, I hear that they or Daryl Issa are about to "blow the lid off from the story" but every day it's more of the same nothing. You know what's really puzzling, though? I never hear them talking about the 7 embassy/consulate attacks that happened under Bush's watch, and Americans were killed during those attacks. Maybe the reason we don't hear about the attacks that happened under Bush is because, like every president, he tried to keep those embassies/consulates safe, but it's a dangerous world. Too bad Obama isn't given the same consideration.

I also love the line about Obama having had four years to end this "futile insanity." Well, let's see. He ended the Iraq war and he's pulling out of Afghanistan (not to mention that Osama Bin Laden was taken out). I'm sure that the fine American that wrote the e-mail understands that you can't just roll up the rug and leave - you have to leave methodically to try to insure the safety of the final troops left. Then again, maybe they don't. They mention that Obama is always on vacation and golfing, but when we look at the facts, Obama has taken 92 days of vacation compared to the 367 days that Bush took by the same point in his presidency.

Did the letter mention anything about the 2921 Americans that were killed on 9/11 under Bush's watch, even though the Clinton administration warned the Bush administration repeatedly about the threat of such an attack? No? Okay, I won't mention it either because I'm sure that the Right would never accuse Obama of neglect of duty or be screaming for impeachment if it had happened under his watch.

The Big Dog's back

durwood, did you forget Obama is not running for President again?

The Big Dog's back

Another reason you don't hear about the troops is because the CONservative media, fox, abc, nbc, cbs, ap, etc., are to busy bashing Obamacare.

SamAdams

Do you actually watch (or read) any of what you're calling "conservative media?"

You can call Fox conservative if you like (it's backsliding and really isn't all that conservative any more). But The Associated Press is far, FAR from conservative. So are the other networks you named. Perhaps they only seem conservative in comparison to your usual likely "news" sources like MSNBC and The Huffington Post.

P.S. If it makes you feel any better, I've never been a big fan of Fox News, either. I oppose ANY network that calls itself "conservative" (or "liberal," for that matter) from the outset. The news is SUPPOSED to be the NEWS, not the filtered front for one political ideology or another.

grumpy

Sam, did you see this when it first came out?

http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/...

grumpy

I would suspect that much of some folks news and info comes from DailyKos.

http://www.dailykos.com/

I suggest you read some of the articles and diaries, Make sure you read the comments following them. You will see what the wingers say amongst themselves.

Dailykos is the biggest progressive "blog/website I know of. Read the wiki on it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dai...

I signed up years ago as a member and recieve their updates by email to see what they are concentrating on. it will give you some insite into the progressive mind in it's natural state, amongst others of like mind, if you will. Be sure to read the comments after the articles. Enjoy!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I had heard of this site but hadn't visited yet. I get my dose of similar at the Huffington on a near daily basis because I try and understand why people think and say/do things that I don't.

Going to the Kos and especially reading the comments after I can only shake my head and come to terms that people who think like [x-topic] actually exist. That's not giving a pass to some conservative comments I have seen but sheesh, both parties seem to be locked in a dead heat in the race to the bottom with their fanatics' contributions.

I would slightly disagree with Sam above, however, on the topic of getting info from a place with a clear slant. I find that refreshing because I don't have to guess where they stand or where/why/how this is influencing in a direction. It's a filter I can put on my brain so if someone like (for example purposes) Rush says something that I don't agree with I know he's not trying to hide anything.

Truth be told though Rush is entertaining but he's my third (maybe fourth) place pick when it comes to talk radio shows and I have several major differences in thought than he despite my general conservatism. Maybe because it's a generational thing? I dunno...I'm a tail-end Gen-Xer, but I can certainly identify with the Millenials.

In thinking about it too before hitting the Save button I seem to get along with some of the older-than-I commenters here. Or at least that is my impression I get from reading and learning about/from them. I'm not ashamed at that (in fact grumpy I took your offer to nip your Van Winkle and cookies as a compliment!) but it puts me in a weird middle-area I guess. Hmmm...an honor earned!

I just wish I could earn a better nickname from Big Dog besides sappy or the broad-brushed-term right-wingnut. Though the guys at the store get a kick out of that being a perception of me. Once that settles in I guess I'll be a true veteran here on the boards regardless of age!

grumpy

Kos has some decent discussions, try finding the 2nd amendment group and read their discussions, it may and does get heated but there are some on their that make it worthwhile.

Limbaugh I used to really enjoy when he first came on (late 80's) and for the first 8 or 10 years. It had much more humor than it now does. It went from more humor to mainstream right for a few years to hard right the last few years. I rarely listen anymore.

Mark Levin has become my entertainment even though I don't listen often anymore. I learn more about the Constitution and realize that I don't agree with him on policy all the time but enjoy the delervery and the snark. He is more right libertarin, to me anyway. Outside of the Constitution, most of what he says I take with a large grain of salt... It is opinion.

deertracker

Vote NO!