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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to Work: Funding Our Military

FIVE: the number of times Senate Democrats have blocked the appropriations bill to fund the Department of Defense (DOD) this year. Despite the fact that this bill adheres to spending caps set into stone by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, Democrats are holding up important national security resources until they get an increase in spending for their liberal priorities.

The Senate Republican majority has been working hard to fund the government through regular order with 12 appropriations bills.  The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Defense Appropriation Act out of committee unanimously – with the full support of both Democrats and Republicans on the committee – just a couple months ago. In fact, the top Democrat on the defense subcommittee even called this bill “a responsible approach to protecting our country.”

So why the change of heart? Why won’t Senate Democrats allow this bill to be debated and amended on the Senate floor?

First, what the bill does: The Defense appropriations bill would fully fund the DOD base budget and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at the levels requested by the president and in adherence with budget caps. 

The Defense Appropriations Act would also provide funding to improve combat readiness, to support wartime efforts such as the president’s sustained military presence in Afghanistan and incrementally increasing number of troops in Iraq, and to support the training of our service members and maintenance of their equipment.

This legislation would provide an additional $150 million necessary for facility sustainment, restoration and moderation to assist all our military installations, to include Oklahoma’s five major installations.

In an effort to support our national security objectives, the Defense appropriations bill would block funding for detention facilities in the United States to house terrorists currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. It would also prevent the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States and prevent the transfer of detainees to foreign counties except in accordance with certification and notification requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. 

It is our constitutional duty in Congress to provide for our nation’s defense.  I firmly believe this. While I also believe our military needs more funding than this bill would appropriate, it's most important that the Senate can first even begin consideration of this vital piece of legislation that includes many provisions supporting our troops. It should be debated and given the opportunity to be amended on the Senate floor. We should be sending a signal to our all-volunteer force that we respect the sacrifices they have made for our nation. We owe it to them to show that they are prioritized and will be well-resourced for their missions.

My Democratic colleagues clearly think otherwise and are using this legislation to force unnecessary increased spending in other areas of the government. When Congress returns in September, they will have a small and narrow window to reverse course before we hit a fiscal cliff. As we continue to see instances of terrorism on the rise, it is unacceptable to put our national security, our citizens and our freedoms in jeopardy. It’s time to fund our defense needs and to do it through regular order.