Yay or Nay? Practically every decision on the House floor is binary: you’re either for it all or against it all. In late July, the House considered the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill that directs policy and spending plans for the Defense Department.
Like any large or complex piece of legislation, it contains both good and bad elements. Let’s start with the good. This legislation fulfills the topline funding level requested by President Trump to go to our nation’s military. The FY21 NDAA includes a broad range of provisions from investing in emerging technologies to remain tough on China, to boosting military pay and benefits, to developing a strategy for dealing with new 5G technologies. The legislation also provides support to military families through a new blended retirement system, reforms to the military healthcare system, and additional reforms to the so-called Widow’s Tax.
However, as is the new normal, the legislation was weighed down with bad partisan policy riders, many having nothing to do with national defense. If signed into law in its current form, this bill would tie the hands of President Trump, or any future president, by requiring third party certifications before providing military aid to cities during a national emergency. This legislation would prohibit the testing of nuclear weapons – a capability necessary to ensure the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of our nuclear weapons. Completely unrelated to military activities, the legislation would seek to permanently limit energy development on over 1 million acres of federal land, federally recognize more than 1.3 million acres of wilderness across the West, and place additional regulations on more than 1,000 river miles under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Although, I am a staunch supporter of our men and women in uniform, I could not support this legislation. House Democratic Leadership politicized this bill, which has historically been bipartisan legislation used to support our military. If the American people were in favor of the liberal wish list of items the majority pushed into this bill, House Democratic Leadership would bring them up for passage in a separate, stand-alone piece of legislation, instead of trying to pass them under the guise of support for our armed forces.
Our national defense is too important for either political party to engage in partisan gimmicks. Fortunately, this legislation still has many steps to take before it gets to the President’s desk, including coming back to the House floor for another vote after the Senate has the opportunity to amend it. I am optimistic the Senate will make the changes necessary to repair the bill. I will never stop fighting for the funding need to provide our warfighters the resources they need to protect this nation and return home safely; I look forward to voting in favor of a final version of the NDAA that does just that.