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NDAA grab bag: the highs and lows

May 18, 2012

The National Defense Authorization Act covers a huge range of issues, authorizing all Pentagon spending for the year. As one of the few bills guaranteed to come up for a vote, anyone and everyone uses the opportunity to offer amendments to shape military policy. This means a lot of activity for us in encouraging amendments and working to get people on board with our priorities. We already covered the Afghanistan vote, and coverage of nuclear weapons is on the way. Here, I offer a grab bag of other key votes out of 140 amendments, and how they turned out. Getting positive amendments passed in the Republican-controlled House is a challenge, but there were some bright lights in the darkness.

Iran

  • The good news: Reps. Conyers, Ellison and Jones offered an amendment stating that nothing in the bill authorizes military force against Iran. This was adopted into the bill in an en bloc (group) amendment.
  • The bad news: Rep. Barbara Lee offered an amendment to appoint a special envoy for US-Iran relations, giving diplomacy the patient attention it needs. In this hawkish House, it only received 77 votes. See the roll call here.

Military spending

  • The good news: Colorado representatives Mike Coffman (R) and Jared Polis (D) teamed up on an amendment to remove permanent Brigade Combat Teams from Europe and replace them with a rotation force, saving money and reducing an unnecessary military presence abroad. The amendment passed, 226-196.  See the roll call here.
  • The bad news: Despite caps put on the budget by the debt ceiling deal last year, Republicans in the House Armed Services Committee added $8 billion to the president’s request for the Pentagon (an already bloated budget). Reps. Barbara Lee and Barney Frank offered an amendment to eliminate the extra funding, but it failed, 170-252. See the roll call here.

The “global war on terror”

  • Just bad news: A bipartisan group of representatives worked together on an amendment to fix problematic provisions passed last year authorizing indefinite military detention. The amendment would have stated that people captured in the US would not be subject to indefinite military detention. The amendment failed, 182-238. See the roll call here.
  • Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers offered an amendment to prohibit “signature strike,” drone strikes based on patterns of behavior rather than knowing the identity of the targets. Given the number of innocent civilians killed in drone strikes, it’s high time for some oversight. Unfortunately, the amendment failed in a voice vote.

 

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