18 September 2014 Legislative News Update
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- AUSA On The Hill
- CR Will Fund Government Unitl Lame Duck
- What To Do About ISIS
- Behind The Scenes Action On The Defense Policy Bill
AUSA ON THE HILL
AUSA Director of Government Affairs, Bill Loper, represented the Association at the Military Coalition Annual Award reception to honor congressional members and staff who made significant contributions to legislation that affects the military and veterans communities.
Awards were presented to Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., as well as staffers, Brad Bowman of Sen. Ayotte’s staff and Jake Cornett, who works for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Sen. Ayotte and Bowman led the fight to overturn a COLA reduction for working-age military retirees. Rep. Miller was instrumental in getting legislation passed that benefits veterans while Cornett was recognized for his efforts to improve access to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for military families with special needs.
Loper had the opportunity to speak with Sen. Ayotte as well as Mr. Bowman and senior staff members from the Senate Armed Services committee. He reiterated AUSA President Gen. Gordon Sullivan’s firm belief that sequestration as it pertains to the defense budget must end. Loper also urged that a continuing resolution be passed expeditiously so that the Department of Defense will at least have a consistent funding stream until final defense authorizations and appropriations are completed.
CR WILL FUND THE GOVERNMENT UNTIL LAME DUCK
Congress is on track to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund government agencies until Dec. 11. The final House vote is expected Wednesday with the Senate to follow suit by late week.
As debate started on the CR, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., took to the floor and bemoaned the fact that the House had to once again resort to a short-term spending bill. Rogers blamed the Senate for not taking up any spending bills on the floor, which Rogers said slowed the sense of momentum that built up in the House over the spring and early summer.
“It's high time that the Senate leadership allows us to complete critical legislation to fund the entire federal government in an up-to-date, line-by-line way and regular order,” Rogers said.
Rogers and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee hope to use CR’S 10-week window to begin drafting a wrap-up omnibus for fiscal 2015.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT ISIS?
Intertwined with the House debate on the CR, is the debate by members on what to do about the threat posed by the Islamic State also known as ISIS or ISIL.
An amendment offered by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., would authorize the military to provide training and weapons to vetted Syrian opposition forces. McKeon called his amendment “a necessary step of what should be a large strategy to defeat ISIL.”
Over on the Senate side, McKeon’s counterpart Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that while the House language is “pretty carefully thought out” he has concerns about language included in the provision that makes it clear that it does not authorize sending U.S. troops into battle. Levin said, “It is very important that we have a bipartisan, bicameral statement of support to go after people who are so threatening to us, to the region and to the world.”
Meanwhile, in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified that American troops may very well end up engaging in direct combat. In response to a question about a direct combat role for U.S. forces, Gen. Martin Dempsey said that if he felt it was necessary, he "would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of ground forces."
BEHIND THE SCENES ACTION ON THE DEFENSE POLICY BILL
If conventional wisdom hold true, then the final outcome of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015 will mirror last year’s.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are meeting behind the scenes to see where their differences lie with the two versions of the legislation.
Although the House passed their version in May, the same time the Senate committee approved theirs, the bill was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Accordingly, it is expected that again this year, an informal House-Senate conference will produce a final bill members will pass during the lame duck session.
We will say it again – this is no way to do business.