McConnell to Senate Democrats: Don’t Hold Defense Bill Hostage to Partisan Politics

‘I’m asking every Democrat who’s serious about supporting our troops and our national security to stand with the American people in rejecting these partisan games.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding defense authorization legislation:

“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress considers each year. That’s why the new majority has made it one of our top priorities. It’s why we’ve reversed the worrying trend of recent years when we’d see such an important bill crammed in at the very last minute, with little time for debate or amendment.

“This year’s defense bill has undergone weeks of thorough and serious consideration under regular order, both in committee and here on the floor. This year’s defense bill has been open to a vigorous and bipartisan amendment process, with amendments from both sides having been adopted already.

“It’s a reform bill that aims to transform bureaucratic waste into crucial investments for the men and women who give everything to protect us. It contains important quality-of-life programs for these servicemembers and their families, it holds the promise of compassion for wounded warriors, and it extends a hand of understanding to heroes who struggle with mental-health challenges. It also authorizes the pay raises our troops have surely earned.

“It’s a bill that contains input from both parties. It’s a bill that reflects priorities from both sides. That’s why it sailed out of committee with huge bipartisan support, 22 to 4. That’s why the House of Representatives passed a similar version with support from both parties.

“That’s why you’d think it would be headed toward strong bipartisan passage in the Senate too. But some Democrat leaders now want to hold pay raises and important medical programs for our troops hostage, as leverage for unrelated partisan games.

“It’s all part of the ‘Filibuster Summer’ they’ve promised us.

“Democrat leaders have been quite open in detailing their strategy, which basically boils down to this: deny our troops the benefits they’ve earned and even shut down the government if they can't extract more taxpayer dollars for bureaucracies like the IRS.

“The American people don’t want any part of this senseless ‘Filibuster Summer’ vacation, but Democrat leaders already packed up the dusty Winnebago and — with “Bigger IRS or Bust” scrawled on the back — are now barreling toward our troops and their families in a dangerous game of chicken.

“I’m asking these leaders to please stop. This isn’t some game. Please think about what you’re doing.

“We live in exceedingly dangerous times. We’re faced with the most ‘diverse and complex array of crises’ in the post-war era, as Kissinger put it. Nearly every week seems to bring another new example of ISIL’s brutality.

“This is certainly not a moment to use our military as leverage in order to secure a few more bucks for bloated bureaucracies like the IRS.

“All of this must make some of our Democrat colleagues uneasy. I’m asking every Democrat who’s serious about supporting our troops and our national security to stand with the American people in rejecting these partisan games.

“Our all-volunteer force should be focused on training for combat and preparing for conflict, not worrying about partisan delay of important policy authorizations.

“We all know how vital our troops are to both our country and our own local communities.

“I’ve come to the floor recently to talk about what the men and women of our military mean to Kentucky.

“I noted how, at Fort Campbell, more than 30,000 Army personnel train for important missions around the world, from repeated deployments to Afghanistan to providing humanitarian support in places like Africa. I noted how the base enriches the surrounding region with an economic impact of $5 billion each year.

“I noted how Fort Knox houses many different military commands and boasts a truly impressive array of training grounds and training facilities. I noted how the base makes an economic impact of more than $2 billion in Hardin County and the surrounding community.

“Today, I’d like to tell you a little about the Blue Grass Army Depot too. The depot, located in Richmond, is integral to both the Army and our national security as a facilitation site for the storage, renovation, and disposal of conventional munitions.

“It also serves as a reminder of the many important tasks undertaken by the Department of Defense — and one more reason Kentuckians don’t want to see the department distracted or disrupted by partisan games in Washington.

“Because, after having personally implored the Department of Defense for several decades to meet our national commitment, the department is now close to completing construction of a state-of-the-art chemical demilitarization facility at the depot. That would allow for the proper disposal of dangerous chemical weapons stored there. This is important for our country and it’s critical to the health and safety of my constituents in Central Kentucky.

“But it’s also become a good jobs story for the region too. “There are more than 1,400 jobs at the Blue Grass Army Depot and hiring will continue when operations at the new facility begin.

“Kentuckians know that passing the defense bill before us would authorize a new special forces facility at Fort Campbell. Kentuckians know it would authorize construction projects and an important new medical clinic at Fort Knox. Kentuckians also know it would help prevent the Department of Defense from becoming unnecessarily distracted or disrupted as it continues carrying out critical tasks, like the kind we see at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

“I’m asking every Senator to remember all the ways our troops and our military enrich our states and local communities. I’m asking every Senator to consider the serious times we live in too. I’m asking every Senator to keep these things in mind when casting their vote on the defense bill. We may be Republicans, we may be Democrats, but in the end we should all be able to come together to support the people who support us.

“Let’s stand together in rejecting partisan games in favor of a bipartisan bill that contains good ideas from both parties and gives President Obama the exact funding level he asked for. Let’s worry less about the demands of one party’s political base and more about supporting the brave men and women who live on base.”

Related Issues: NDAA