6 November 2014 Legislative News Update
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- What GOP Win Means For The Defense Committees
- Omnibus vs. Continuing Resolution
WHAT THE GOP WIN MEANS FOR THE DEFENSE COMMITTEES
It was a blue election night for Democrats. Republicans exceeded even their expectations and rolled to a huge victory - padding their House majority and taking control of the Senate.
The 114th Congress will see radical changes to the Defense Oversight Committees. Retirements, election losses and other factors will alter the make-up of the Armed Services and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees in both the House and Senate.
Here is a rundown of the expected changes:
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, D-Mich., is retiring. Levin, a past recipient of AUSA’s Outstanding Legislator Award, has been a proponent for a strong national defense, an advocate for service members, veterans and their families that spans from the cold war to the conflicts in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is expected to take over the chairmanship.
If your mission in life includes monitoring branches of the governments for fraud, waste, abuse, then Sen. McCain is your guy. With decades of experience in defense and foreign policy matters, McCain is well known as a fierce opponent of wasteful spending. Many witnesses testifying before Armed Services Committee hearings have felt McCain’s wrath on programs and weapons systems he feels are a waste of tax-payer dollars. McCain said that, "The federal government spends too much money, squanders precious resources on questionable projects pushed by special interests, and ignores the priorities of the American taxpayer.”
McCain is also your guy if you feel that sequestration is a really, really bad idea. McCain, who voted for the Budget Control Act that set sequestration in motion calls it the “worst vote I have cast in many years,” and has vowed to either reverse or replace the cuts to the Defense budget. Unless Congress takes action, the budget caps would return in October 2015. We are in complete support of that and will work with Sen. McCain to see that it happens.
We do depart from McCain when it comes to raising TRICARE fees. In the past, McCain has introduced amendments that would tie fee increases to the annual growth in health costs, a position we adamantly opposed then and will continue to strongly fight.
Other changes on the committee include the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and the election losses of Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is also retiring. Like Levin, McKeon is also a strong supporter of the military. He is also a past recipient of AUSA’s Outstanding Legislator Award and he will be missed.
It is expected that Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, will take the gavel. Like McCain, Thornberry has repeatedly warned of the dangers of sequestration and has urged that Congress work together and replace the steep defense cuts.
Reps. Bill Enyart, D-Ill., Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and Daniel Maffei, D-N.Y., were all defeated in the election. North Carolina Democrat Mike McIntyre retired and Rep. Coleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii launched a failed Senate bid. Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., and Scott Peters, D-Calif., are locked in races that are still too close to call.
On the appropriations side, changes in the Senate Appropriations Committee will likely affect the Defense Subcommittee in ways that are still unclear. However, with respect to the Defense Subcommittee, we believe that Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will take over the helm. Committee members Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., are retiring. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., lost his race, Mark Begich, D-Alaska is in a race still too close to call while Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a runoff in hers next month.
The biggest changes facing the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee are the retirements of Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y. Additionally, Georgia Republican Jack Kingston failed in his Senate bid. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. will remain the chairman and Indiana Rep. Peter Visclosky will still be the top Democrat.
OMNIBUS VS. CONTINUING RESOLUTION
Congress’ return next week for the lame duck session will certainly provide a clearer picture on the way ahead with respect to the fiscal 2015 spending bills.
We are encouraged by news that House and Senate appropriations leaders have instructed their staff members to hammer out the details of a massive omnibus bill that would be passed before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on Dec. 11. We hope that rank and file GOP lawmakers will go along with the plan.
We remain concerned that some lawmakers, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas will instead push for another CR until March 2015. This would give them time to rework the 2015 spending bills to better reflect their priorities under a Republican-controlled House and Senate.
Operating under a CR means that the military is funded at the previous year’s levels. Any new programs or construction cannot start under a CR. Coupled with the ongoing threat of sequestration, the picture gets very complicated.
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., will reach out to key members of Congress in the coming days to urge them to finish this year’s business THIS YEAR!
It is imperative that Congress passes an omnibus spending package and not another continuing resolution.
We have an AUSA-suggested letter available on the Contact Congress link on our website http://capwiz.com/ausa/home/. The letter titled “Pass a FY 2015 Omnibus Bill!” urges the House and Senate to work together and pass this critical bill. Please use this letter and let your members know that this is important to you.