The House has passed this year’s defense authorization bill which departs from last year’s debt limit deal by adding $8 billion above spending targets set for the military, and by replacing the defense side of the automatic “trigger” cuts with cuts from elsewhere in the budget.
The final vote was 299-120, with 77 Democrats supporting the bill, and all but 16 Republicans joining them. Defense authorization bills are traditionally seen as must-pass, but the White House has already threatened to veto this one from the House because of how it breaks the spending agreement from last year; in this case, by spending MORE than the target limit. Democrats tried to pass an amendment that would roll back the bill by $8 billion to keep it in line with the debt limit deal, but that failed 252-170. Lucky for them, most all the serious people in Washington think that defense spending is magical “un-spending” that doesn’t count toward the federal budget.
And the spending issues are not the only reason that the White House threatened a veto.
Insisting they are stronger on defense than the president, Republicans crafted a bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast that the military opposes, bars reductions in the nation’s nuclear arsenal and reaffirms the indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens captured on American soil.
The divisive GOP provisions will have a short shelf life, as the Democratic-controlled Senate is likely to scrap many of them and stick to the spending level in the deficit-cutting agreement.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will take up the NDAA next week.
You could fairly call the bill from the House a collection of corporate welfare. Overall, it would spend $642 billion on defense, more than the rest of the world spends on their militaries combined. And this included keeping in place outmoded and aging weapons systems that the Pentagon no longer wants. All of this fits with the image of a captured Congress, in thrall to the weapons contractors back home who help fund their elections, and desirous of keeping jobs in their communities that go toward building and maintaining the weapons of war.
The House also passed an amendment limiting funds for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a familiar conservative bugaboo (it restricts national sovereignty, they say) that nonetheless has the support of the business community because it sets up legal protections for the transit across oceans off the US coastline. And there were the amendments on indefinite detention, the most restrictive of which failed in favor of what some call a “hoax fix.”
In addition to going over the limit set by the spending cap, the House also knocked out the defense trigger replacing it with other cuts. They passed a reconciliation bill to that effect previously, but they included it in this bill, doing it without debate or discussion. This sets up a showdown before the election, actually, on how to deal with spending for the next fiscal year. And it raises the stakes on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” including the defense sequester.