McConnell Urges Senate Democrats Not to Play Partisan Politics with Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor urging cooperation on the defense bill:

“Today, the Senate turns to consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016.
“This legislation, which authorizes funds and sets out policy for our military annually, is always important. But it’s especially important now, given the multitude of threats that challenge us as a nation: for instance, the aggressive rise of ISIL, Iran’s ambitions for regional hegemony and its accompanying quest for nuclear weapons, and both Chinese and Russian efforts to erode American influence and assert dominance over their neighbors.

“It's also important given the need to start thinking about preparing our armed services for the many global threats the next President will confront the day he or she takes office.

“The reality is, we’ve left behind the era when America could withdraw from conflict overseas and escape to the comfort and security provided by vast oceans and isolation. We’ve lost the luxury of building our forces years after a war has begun. And most important, the simple trade off of guns versus butter, drawing down our conventional forces—hollowing them out—and standing behind our nuclear arsenal—does not suit the strategic challenges we face. We can no longer ignore ungoverned spaces. We have left the Cold War long behind. Trade-offs have become more difficult to accomplish, and they require greater strategic thought than the President has provided. And we have seen the resilience of the terrorist threat.

“Senator McCain, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is a man with the depth of experience to understand the need to modernize, refit and prepare our military for the threats and operations in the coming years. And thankfully for the Senate, he’s also a man with the vision to craft a bill that could put us on a path to address those challenges — legislation that could help equip the next President with adequate capabilities to address threats from adversaries like Russia, China, ISIL, and Al Qaeda, not to mention the unforeseen challenges that inevitably arise.
“That’s just the course this defense authorization bill proposes to put us on.

“And I’d like to commend Senator McCain not just for crafting this bill, but for working closely with members of both parties to steer it through committee with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“This legislation proposes to do a lot of things, but fundamentally it’s premised on a common-sense idea: that we should cut waste and redirect that authorized funding to where it’s actually needed — like meeting the needs of the men and women who put everything on the line to keep us safe.
“In a time when missions are in imbalance with resources for a military that’s already had to endure too many cuts in recent years, it just makes sense to do things like:

“Take on a growing bureaucracy at the Pentagon to make it more efficient and effective.

“Work toward reforming the way our military purchases weapons and equipment.

“And improve and modernize the military retirement system in order to secure greater value and choice for service members.

“Overall this bill authorizes about $10 billion in savings for actual military needs.
“These authorities will allow for improvements in the training and capability of our forces, and they’ll help us develop new technologies to maintain superiority on the battlefield.
“Our constituents stand to benefit from many of the provisions in this bill too.
“For instance, Kentuckians will be glad to know that this legislation would authorize a new special forces facility at Fort Campbell. They’ll also be glad to hear it will authorize construction projects and an important new medical clinic at Fort Knox — an initiative I’ve championed for years.

“It’s no wonder then that so many Democrats joined with Republicans to support this bill on the floor of the House of Representatives, and why they joined Republicans in the Armed Services Committee to pass this bill on an overwhelming bipartisan basis too -- which of course is the tradition both of that committee, and of the Senate as a whole.
“Now we need to keep that momentum going.
“Because this defense policy bill cannot fall hostage to partisan politics; too much is at stake.

“We just heard more partisan saber-rattling from the White House yesterday, which is now threatening to block a pay increase for our troops unless Congress first agrees to spend billions more plumping up bloated bureaucracies like the IRS.
“That’s despite the fact that the funding level in this bill is exactly the same as what President Obama requested in his budget: $612 billion.
“The Minority Leader appeared to go even further, essentially saying that voting to support the men and women who protect us is now just ‘a waste of time’ — because, we're led to assume, his party isn't getting its way on other partisan demands unrelated to this bill.
“Look: We understand that some of our Democrat friends might be so determined to increase spending for Washington's bureaucracies that, to achieve it, they'd even risk support for our men and women in uniform in the face of so many global threats. I certainly don’t love every aspect of the Budget Control Act, especially the effects we've seen on the defense side in hindering our ability to modernize the force and meet the demands of current operations.

“But to deny brave service members the benefits they’ve earned putting everything on the line for each one of us, for these partisan reasons — it would be profoundly unfair to our troops.

“Blocking this bill is not in our national interest.
“So let’s skip the partisan games and start working toward common-sense reforms, as this bill proposes.

“Let’s work together to pass the best defense authorization bill possible.
“I urge members of both parties who want to offer amendments to go ahead and do so, and then to work with the bill managers to get them moving.

“We have that opportunity this year because we returned to regular order and because we’re considering the NDAA at the appropriate time in the session--rather than at the very last minute, with little time for thoughtful consideration or amendments, as had become the unfortunate norm in recent years.
“This positive turn is another credit to Senator McCain’s leadership.
“Of course, no defense authorization bill will ever be perfect. But this is legislation that reflects a good faith effort to authorize programs in the political reality we live in. It’s bipartisan reform legislation that proposes to root out waste, improve our military capabilities, support the brave Americans who protect us, and make preparations for the challenges — both foreseeable and unforeseeable — in the years ahead.”

Related Issues: America's Military, National Security