The responsibility “to provide for the common defense” is one of the fundamental roles of the federal government — the duty is explicitly mentioned in the preamble of the Constitution. With the importance of preserving national security in mind, few provisions are more critical than the National Defense Authorization Act.
The act is no ordinary piece of legislation. This annual defense bill is the legislative vehicle that authorizes funding and legal authorities required for our military to function. It funds the Department of Defense, including overseas operations and pay for the men and women in the armed forces charged with protecting us.
The current bill contains a 2.3 percent military pay raise, retirement reforms, funding to ensure appropriate levels of troop readiness, TRICARE (the military’s health care system), missile defense, resources to combat cyberattacks and more. In short, this defense bill authorizes the diverse resources for our national security and our troops.
For the past 53 years, the act has been approved without fail on a bipartisan basis. In these dangerous times when the threats abroad include dangerous terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, full funding for our military should continue to be a bipartisan effort.
The current National Defense Authorization Act includes every penny of the $612 billion requested by President Obama. Although Democrats do not disagree with the policies in the act, some have vowed to block the bill. Why? One-hundred forty-three House Democrats voted against the defense bill not because they disagree with provisions contained in it, but because they want to use a different accounting method to allow more domestic spending.
Democratic leadership is trying to use debate over National Defense Authorization Act to end current spending limits under the Budget Control Act — called “sequestration” — for domestic spending on federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, constraining our growing national debt is also important to our national defense.
Astonishingly, President Obama has threatened to veto the defense bill. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has even said that debating the bill was “a waste of time.” I could not disagree more.
There is a time and place for a policy debate, and where that debate occurred in committees in both the House and Senate, the National Defense Authorization Act passed on overwhelmingly bipartisan votes. Threatening to block funding for national defense in order to end current budget limits for domestic spending is irresponsible.
Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, represents Okanogan County as part of the 4th Congressional District. Call him at 202-225-5816.