9 September 2013 Legislative News Update 


Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.

In this issue:

  • Congress Back in Session



Congress will return to Washington after a five-week recess to an immediate agenda that is radically different from the one they expected.

Rather than jumping into the budget battle, they will instead focus on whether or not to authorize a military strike on Syria.

The House will probably take up a short-term, stopgap funding measure this week that would avert a government shutdown at the end of the month.  Instead of using the continuing resolution (CR) to wage partisan fights over a range of spending issues such as raising the debt ceiling, sequestration and defunding the president’s health care plan, it is expected that the CR will not contain any controversial provisions and is not expected to last more than two to three months.  This will give Congress the opportunity to fully focus on the Syria debate. 

The Syria debate also gives some members a renewed platform to speak out against sequestration.  House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said in interviews over the weekend that, "We cannot keep asking the military to perform mission after mission with sequestration... hanging over their heads.  The world has not gotten safer and yet we are cutting a trillion dollars out of our military- asking them to do more with less.  That has to come to a stop.”  McKeon also said he thought he had enough leverage on the resolution vote to get the president to do something about sequester, although he cautioned that “sometimes you think you might be in a position to do something and someone pops your balloon.”

Sen. James Inhofe, ranking member Armed Services Committee, “would want an exemption for the Defense Department from sequestration and a reversal of the president’s $500 billion in defense cuts.”  House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle have said they oppose the president’s desire to use force in Syria because they believe spending cuts imposed by sequestration have done harm to military readiness.

Speaking of harm to the military, what really has us steamed is a letter from the president to House Speaker John Boehner in which he announces his decision to issue an executive order that would allow him to order an “alternative” military pay raise in times of national emergency or “severe economic conditions.”

In the letter, Obama cites the economy as the reason. “I am strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our nation over the past decade of war.  As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course.  This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints faced by federal agencies.”

The 1 percent pay raise is not a done deal.  In their fiscal 2014 defense authorization and appropriations bills, the House approved the 1.8 percent increase, while the Senate versions of those bills side with the White House and Pentagon on 1 percent increase.

We must ensure that the House-passed pay raise is the final word.  Please add your voice to ours and send a message to your elected members.  Visit the Legislative Agenda page on AUSA’s website, www.ausa.org.  Click on the “Contact Congress” link and then on the prepared letter “Don’t Cut the Troop’s Pay Raise.”  There is another letter on the site “Stop Sequestration Now” that you can send to let your representatives and senators know that the time to act to stop sequestration is now.