New Dems Cheer House Approval Of Comprehensive Defense Bill

July 12, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 220–197 Friday to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, a move moderate House Democrats called “a step towards reaffirming American leadership in the world.”

The National Defense Authorization Act is the name of a collection of United States federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The bill was the first the House has debated since a bitter rift erupted earlier this week between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a small number of progressives in the caucus over last month’s $4.6 billion border bill.

The disagreement spilled into the open on Wednesday after Pelosi addressed Democrats in a closed door meeting.

“I have no regrets about anything. Regrets is not what I do,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the meeting.

However, meeting attendees said the Speaker also tried to strike a conciliatory note behind closed doors, reportedly telling her members “without that unity, we are playing completely into the hands of the other people.”

“We’re a family and we have our moments,” Pelosi told her colleagues. “So, again, you got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”

She added: “Make me the target … because we have important fish to fry.”

On Friday, the Democratic leadership kept most of the caucus in line. Just eight Democrats voted against the bill on final passage.

The House measure cuts President Donald Trump’s $750 billion request for the military by $17 billion. Its passage came after more than two dozen Republicans joined with Democrats in a 251-170 vote to limit the president’s authority to wage war against Iran.

“Accountability at the Pentagon matters,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said on the House floor. “With Democrats working on this bill, this bill is better for national security because we don’t believe in sending a blank check to the Pentagon.”

The measure, which was crafted in part to appease progressive Democrats, requires Trump to get authorization from Congress to conduct military strikes against Iran.

After the votes, Representative Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, said, “ensuring the safety and security of our country and all Americans is a fundamental responsibility of Congress.

“New Democrat Coalition Members were proud to support the passage of this year’s defense authorization which gives our service members what they need to be successful in their mission,” he continued. “The bill is a step towards reaffirming American leadership in the world, and meets our obligations to service members when they transition back to civilian life, as well as to their families.”

He also called out Representative Smith, for special recognition, saying the New Democrat Coalition member had exhibited “extraordinary leadership throughout this process.”

Democrats also approved amendments to block emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, end U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force that authorized the Iraq War, among others.

Aside from the legislation’s war powers provisions, other amendments reversed Trump’s transgender military ban, gave federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave, prohibited military parades for political purposes and banned Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties.

The bill passed by the House must still be reconciled with a Senate version that is considerably less at odds with the Trump administration.

It is widely expected that among other things, Senate negotiators will try to remove the Iran amendment and provision cutting off American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

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