ICYMI: Inhofe Speaks about FY19 NDAA Advancement on Senate Floor

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke on the Senate floor yesterday about the NDAA.

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Inhofe: Mr. President, first of all, the comments that were made by my friend from Florida are right on Target. I recall, it was actually—it would have been 30 years ago—a book was written. It was called modernizing China by Anthony Kubik and everything they said at that time that was going to happen in the future has now happened and they've been the leaders in the freedoms that China has never known.

And then when you go and you see what is happening all the way around the world right now with China. Seeing we're in the South China Sea where they're building all of these islands down there and our allies down there believe that they're preparing for world war III. It's really, it's serious stuff.

We're going to be voting in a few minutes on what, on moving forward on the bill that arguably every year is the most significant bill of the year. It's passed now for 57 consecutive years and we're anxious to get to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act.

It's our hope as we consider the bill this week that we can have an open amendment process just as we did during the committee markup where we considered 300 bipartisan amendments. I'm joined here by Senator Reed who is the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and we're all in agreement on a lot of things. One being an open amendment process.

We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to offer their amendments and unfortunately it's difficult sometimes with the rules of the Senate because people can object to anything then everything stops. But on this, I can't imagine this is going to happen because of the significance of this bill.

We can't overstate the significance of the NDAA. Legislation that prioritizes, modernizing our forces. There's widespread agreement that we need this legislation and just looking at some of the headlines.

Just this weekend, the Washington Post had an article about how the Pentagon fears we aren't keeping pace with China and Russia in the area of hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons are weapons that move at five times the speed of sound and we're actually behind both China and Russia in developing that capability.

We could say the same thing about the Triad Nuclear progress. We've done virtually nothing in the last ten years  while we've watched China and Russia go beyond us. Of course, these are the things we are addressing.

On Memorial Day, the Oklahoman discussed how China and Russia have artillery capabilities. Artillery capabilities are generally looked at in terms of rapid fire and range and they're ahead of us in both of these areas. So, this idea that America has the best of everything is something that most people believe and we've fallen behind. We need to, not be critical of how we got behind, that's not important now.

We know where we are, we know that we can start with this bill and we are going to be having the motion to advance the bill and let me say this: during the consideration of this bill in our committee , we had well attended meetings, we actually considered 300 amendments during the course of the consideration to bring it to the floor out of the committee and it passed unanimously. So, it's something that we worked very closely together.

Senator Jack Reed and I worked very closely, we had very few disagreements and I think we both agree on one thing—we have to get the bill done, we  want to have an open amendment process, if for some reason there is a lot of objection to that, we will express ourselves and hopefully we'll be successful with that.

With that, I just would thank Senator Reed for the cooperation that we've had from not just Senator Reed but his leadership in the committee so we can come to the point where we are today.

Reed: Thank you, Mr. President. Let me extend my thanks to the Senator from Oklahoma for his cooperation, his leadership. As he indicated very accurately, we on a bipartisan basis, considered numerous amendments. We were virtually unanimous at the conclusion of the committee deliberations in terms of bringing this bill to the floor. His staff and the Democratic staff were working all weekend to prepare a package of amendments which we think can be accepted unanimously as an initial step in the process, a manager's package.

And then, like Senator Inhofe, I would like to see a process where we had a series of amendments from both sides, adequate time to debate the amendment and then a vote on the amendment as we move forward. And then, be able to do so in a very deliberate, thoughtful way and reach, we hope in a timely manner, a point where we have discussed the major concerns of all of our colleagues, voted on many of them and then asked for final passage of a bill that is worthy of passage and each year we've done so and we'll begin to set us on a path to conference with the House of Representatives and then a final conference report here.

But, once again, I want to thank the Senator from Oklahoma and concur that we would like to see and so far his cooperation, his leadership has engendered a cooperation so that we can have a series of amendments on the floor and with that, I would yield the floor.

Inhofe: Let me just make one more comment, because it's not very often we come with a really significant piece of legislation that everyone agrees on and everyone agrees that we have to have it. There's no question about that and I would say that this also has the support not just of myself with Senator Reed, but also with the leadership and the minority and the majority leadership in the Senate.

And the one thing that everyone agrees on is an open amendment process and it's frustrating and I'd ask my friend from Rhode Island if he agrees with this that under the Senate rules one person can really make it very difficult. In fact, one person could preclude us from having any votes on amendments. Just because that's the way the Senate works and last week we experienced that.

On Thursday, we wanted to advance the bill at that time and bring it forward and because of just one individual making a demand that his amendment be heard. So, I'm hoping that we discourage people from doing that and I think that Senator Reed would join me in encouraging our members to bring their amendments down to start moving this on before something happens that obstructs the progress that we anticipate we're going to be having.

Reed: If I may, I do concur with the Senator from Oklahoma. Thank you. We have both, in our careers here in the Senate, seen debates on the floor on the NDAA that were very open, that proceeded over a course of several days, that produced very sound legislation.

And then we see situations in which, frankly, no amendments could be offered because almost immediately we were in a position of deadlock and the majority leader--Republican or Democrat--filed the final cloture motion and suddenly  we were on final passage without amendments.

I think the bill is good, I think there are many issues, important issues we can debate, and we might disagree on the outcome of the vote, but that debate and that vote would be very critical to the national security of the United States. So, I do in fact, concur with the Senator from Oklahoma.

Inhofe: And, you know, there are some issues that where we're going to have a partisan difference we already pretty much know where they are and there will be. There are going to be some controversial votes and that's fine, that's the way this is supposed to be and it's a good way to settle it.

I recently came back from Afghanistan, Kuwait and a lot of the places where we have our troops. And let me tell you, if we don't go ahead and get this done when we've already announced what's in the bill being done as we speak we have an awful lot of troops out there that are going to wonder "are we really supporting, offering the support to them for these guys that are at risk and the gals that are risking their lives and doing the things—the heavy lifting.”

We are anxious to get started and we will have a vote shortly on the bill and I'd like to go ahead and start in on amendments. Hopefully that will take place. With that, I yield the floor