Senate to Pass Bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act
‘This year’s bill authorizes the investments that will support all these goals — and a major pay raise for military personnel, to boot. I’m especially proud that it supports the ongoing missions of Kentucky’s installations, and the many military families that call our state home… So today, once again, I’d like to thank Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed for their leadership throughout this process. They’ve produced legislation that each member of this body should be proud of.'
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the National Defense Authorization Act and the growing threat of Iranian aggression:
“Later today, the Senate will vote to fulfill a solemn responsibility. For a 59th consecutive year, we’ll pass the National Defense Authorization Act. I hope and expect we’ll do it by a wide, bipartisan margin. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this legislation to the ongoing missions of our nation’s men and women in uniform. The NDAA is simultaneously: A target to guide the modernization of our all-volunteer force. A supply line to restore readiness and keep U.S. personnel equipped with the most cutting-edge, lethal capabilities. A promise of critical support services to military families. And a declaration, to both our allies and adversaries, of America’s strategic resolve.
“This year’s bill authorizes the investments that will support all these goals — and a major pay raise for military personnel, to boot. I’m especially proud that it supports the ongoing missions of Kentucky’s installations, and the many military families that call our state home. This NDAA is the product of a robust, bipartisan process that has consumed our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee for weeks. Nearly three hundred amendments were adopted during markup.
“So today, once again, I’d like to thank Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed for their leadership throughout this process. They’ve produced legislation that each member of this body should be proud of. Particularly in these troubled times, this is exactly the message the United States Senate needs to send. I look forward to passing it today.
“But passing the NDAA itself is not the only important message the Senate will send this week on national security. On Friday morning, we will vote on a badly ill-conceived amendment that would literally make our nation less secure and make American servicemembers less safe. I respect my colleagues, but this amendment from Senator Udall and others is as half-baked and dangerous a measure as we’ve seen on the floor for quite some time. It should be soundly rejected.
“We know that our Democratic colleagues have political differences with President Trump. I think the whole country has gotten that message loud and clear. But they have chosen a terrible time and a completely irresponsible manner to express themselves. Rather than work with the president, who shares the goal of avoiding war with Iran, they have gratuitously chosen to make him the enemy. Let me repeat that: rather than work with the president to deter our actual enemies, they have chosen to make him the enemy.
“At the very moment that Iran has been stepping up its aggression throughout the Middle East, these senators are proposing radical new restrictions on the administration’s ability to defend U.S. interests and our partners. The Udall amendment would require the administration to secure explicit authorization from Congress before our forces would be able to respond to all kinds of potential Iranian attacks.
“That includes attacks on American civilians. Let me say that again. Some of our colleagues want us to go out of our way and create a brand-new obstacle that would block the President from swiftly responding if Iran attacks American civilians. Or U.S. diplomatic facilities. Or Israel. Or the military forces of an ally or partner. Or if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz. In all these scenarios, the Udall amendment would hamstring the executive branch from reacting quickly. And in modern warfare, time is of the essence. The War Powers Resolution explicitly recognizes the reality that Administrations may need to respond quickly and with flexibility.
“This amendment could even constrain our military from acting to prevent an imminent attack. As written, it appears to suggest they must absorb the attack before defending themselves. And even then, for how long would they be allowed to conduct retaliatory strikes? How absurd. How dangerous. Iran attacks Israel? No timely response from the U.S. — especially if Congress happens to be on recess. Iran attacks American civilians? The president’s hands would be tied.
“This is never how the American presidency has worked. For very good reason. I ask my colleagues to stop obsessing about Donald Trump for a minute. Think about a scenario involving a future or past president. Hypothetically, then, would it be appropriate for Congress to tie a president’s hand with legislation preventing military action to defend NATO allies from a Russian attack without explicit congressional approval? If conflict came in August and the U.S. and its NATO allies didn’t act decisively, front-line states could be gobbled up before Congress even convenes to consider an AUMF.
“The Udall amendment would represent a huge departure from the basic flexibility that presidents of both parties have always had to take immediate military steps, short of full-scale war, to respond to immediate crises. This ploy is being advertised as some kind of courageous reassertion by Congress of our constitutional authority. But it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a departure from our constitutional traditions and norms. Nobody is talking about a full-scale war with Iran. Not the president. Not the administration. Heaven forbid, if that situation were to arrive, consultation with Congress and widespread public support would of course be necessary.
“The Udall amendment is something completely different. It defines self-defense in a laughably narrow way and then, in all other situations, proposes that President Trump should be stripped of the basic powers of his office unless Democrats in Congress write him a permission slip. I don’t think so. This is a terrible idea at any moment, let alone as Iran is escalating its violence and searching for any sign of American weakness. I ask my colleagues: do not embolden Iran. Do not weaken our deterrence. Do not undermine our diplomacy. Do not tie the hands of our military commanders. Reject this dangerous mistake when we vote on the Udall amendment tomorrow.”
Related Issues: National Security, America's Military, Iran, NDAA