|I'm starting with the end of the story. House members passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 by 299 votes to 120 on May 18. Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) were among the 222 Republicans supporting the bill. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) were among the 77 Democrats supporting the bill.
Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) missed the last few votes on the defense authorization bill, including the final vote on passage. When I asked why he was absent and how he would have voted, I received the following reply from his communications director, Jeff Giertz.
Rep. Braley missed the votes because he was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center paying a visit to Taylor Morris, a Cedar Falls native and Navy sailor who was severely injured in Afghanistan this month. The facility is in Bethesda, MD, and Rep. Braley was not able to make it back to the Capitol in time for votes.
Rep. Braley is supportive of many of the provisions in the Defense bill - including a pay raise for our troops and the provisions outlined below that he's been working for (strengthening sexual assault protections, protecting vets from home foreclosure, and preventing cuts at the Des Moines Air National Guard facility), but has serious reservations about how the bill perpetuates America's involvement in Afghanistan. As you recall, Bruce has called for an immediate redeployment of all American forces from Afghanistan.
Last year, Braley was the only Iowan in the House to vote against the initial and final versions of the defense authorization bill, so I tried again to get an answer on whether he would have voted for the bill approved last Friday. Giertz responded,
It's hard for me to give a yes or no answer on that one because it would depend on the specific language of the bill, but Rep. Braley would have serious reservations about supporting an NDAA bill that continues America's involvement in Afghanistan.
Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill that the House approved an amendment Braley submitted "that would require the administration to submit a report to Congress that estimates the long-term costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Speaking of amendments, House members offered more than 100 of them to the defense authorization bill. Some were not voted on, such as a bipartisan effort to bring U.S. troops back from Afghanistan more quickly.
Other amendments were accepted or rejected by voice vote, and many were rolled into "en bloc" amendments. For instance, one amendment approved as part of a group "requires the Defense Department to calculate and publish the costs of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya."
More than two dozen proposed amendments received roll call votes on the House floor.
It can be hard to judge which amendments are politically significant. I did my best last year to sort out the most important provisions considered for the 2012 defense authorization bill. Nevertheless, an amendment I ignored, which one military expert described as "military ignorance combined with political opportunism," became a focal point for Republican Ben Lange's criticism of Braley earlier this year.
Several votes taken last week make clear that members of Congress aren't as worried as they claim to be about the federal deficit and debt. This bill calls for $637 billion in spending during the 2013 fiscal year. House members shunned potential cost-cutting measures. For instance, the defense authorization bill prohibits any Base Realignment and Closure process from being proposed, planned, or carried out in 2013. The bill also includes $100 million in funding for an East Coast missile defense shield that would cost at least another $5 billion before 2015.
In addition, an amendment approved last Friday would "spare the Defense Department from sequester cuts and take required [federal] budget savings from other departments." That amendment passed by 220 votes to 201. Latham and King voted yes, while Braley, Loebsack, and Boswell voted no.
Immediately after that vote, House members rejected a Democratic amendment to reduce overall defense authorization act spending by $8 billion in order to keep the cost in line with the Budget Control Act approved last summer. Braley and Boswell supported that amendment, but Loebsack, Latham, and King helped vote it down.
One closely-watched vote was related to constitutional concerns rather than funding. That bipartisan amendment would have banned indefinite military detention in the U.S.:
Summary of the Smith-Amash Amendment
What it would do: The Smith-Amash amendment would resolve two key questions that were left open during the last year's NDAA debate on the detention of individuals suspected of involvement with terrorism. First, the Smith-Amash Amendment would ban indefinite military detention and military commission trials in the United States, making clear that individuals apprehended on U.S. soil who are suspected of terror-related activities can only be tried in a civilian court with all the corresponding constitutional protections. Second, the amendment would repeal a provision in the FY 2012 NDAA that requires that a category of foreign terrorism suspects be held in military custody, absent a presidential waiver.
Click here for more background and details on the Smith-Amash amendment.
Only 182 House members, mostly Democrats, voted for the Smith-Amash amendment (roll call). I was pleased to see Braley, Loebsack, and Boswell among the "ayes."
Republican Justin Amash persuaded only 18 of his GOP House colleagues to support the amendment he co-sponsored. King and Latham were among the vast majority of House Republicans to reject the amendment. So much for "constitutional conservatives."
At the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation's blog, Kingston Reif posted a good summary of how the House acted on amendments related to nuclear weapons and missile defense. House Republicans did not allow many of those amendments to be debated, but here's how Reif described the ones House members voted on:
11. Long-range bomber: Markey(D-MA)-Welch (D-VT)-Conyers (D-MI) amendment #64 to delay the development of the new long-range nuclear-capable bomber by ten years and the funding in the bill would be reduced by $291,742,000, which is the amount planned for this bomber. Failed 112-308.
12. Missile defense spending: Polis (D-CO)-Sanchez (D-CA) amendment #198 to eliminate the additional $403 million approved by the committee for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System based in California and Alaska, still leaving approximately $858 million for the troubled program. Failed 165-252. [...]
30. Nuclear weapons in South Korea: Johnson, Hank (GA) amendment #212 (submitted late) to oppose deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea. Failed 160-261.
31. Nuclear weapons reductions: Johnson, Hank (GA) amendment #210 (submitted late) to require the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to report to Congress regarding whether nuclear weapons reductions pursuant to the New START Treaty are in the national security interests of the United States. Failed 175-245.
55. U.S. Enrichment Corporation: Pearce (R-NM)-Markey (D-MA) amendment #195 to strike section 3156 from the bill authorizing $150 million for the U.S. Enrichment Corporation. Failed 121-300.
102. Nuclear weapons costs: Larsen, Rick (D-WA)-Sanchez, Loretta (D-CA) amendment #220 (submitted late, revised) to require a report on the costs of maintaining and modernizing the nuclear deterrent. Adopted by voice vote as part of an en bloc amendment. [...]
32. Nuclear weapons reductions: Price (R-GA) amendment #6 to prohibit the President from unilaterally entering into any agreement that would decrease the size of our nuclear arsenal. Debated but vote postponed. Approved 241-179.
50. Non-proliferation funding in Russia: Lamborn (R-CO) amendment #88 to limit non-proliferation spending in Russia until Russia stops helping Syria, Iran, North Korea, although the Secretary of Energy is provided waiver authority. Adopted by voice vote.
54. Non-proliferation funding in Russia: Franks (R-AZ) amendment #10 to limit non-proliferation spending in Russia. Approved 241-181.
59. Nuclear weapons reductions and maintaining the nuclear triad: Rehberg (R-MT), Lummis (R-WY) amendment #100 to ban any reductions to the strategic nuclear triad unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that: 1) further reductions in the Russia Federation's arsenal are needed for compliance with New START limits; and 2) Russia is not developing or deploying nuclear delivery systems capable of reaching the U.S. not covered by New START limits. Would also protect all three legs of the nuclear triad from elimination. Approved 238-162 .
Click here to look at individual roll call votes on any of those amendments.
Finally, I enclose statements released by each of Iowa's House members last week. All of them mentioned that the defense authorization bill would protect the Iowa National Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing, based in Des Moines. Air Force officials want to cut back on that unit, prompting bipartisan opposition from Iowa elected officials.
Press release from Bruce Braley's office, May 18 (emphasis in original):
Key Braley-Authored Provisions Included in House-Passed Defense Bill
Legislation incorporates several Braley proposals to strengthen sexual assault protections, protect vets from home foreclosure; bill stops changes at Des Moines Air Guard facility
Washington, D.C. - The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the US House of Representatives today included provisions authored by Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence in the military and provide additional protections for veterans against foreclosure. The legislation would also block a proposed Air Force recommendation to eliminate over 700 jobs at the Des Moines-based 132nd Iowa Air National Guard Fighter Wing.
"These provisions make important changes that would reduce the incidence of sexual assault in the military, protect more veterans and their families from home foreclosure, and protect the Des Moines Air National Guard Fighter Wing from cuts," Braley said. "This is important to many Iowans in uniform and to many veterans, and I'm encouraged that they moved a step closer to implementation today. We've worked hard to get this done for our men and women in uniform and those who have served, and we'll keep working until the job's done."
In April 2011, Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act, a bill that would force the Department of Defense to make changes to reduce the incidence of sexual assault and domestic violence in the military. Several of the bill's provisions were included in a Defense bill that passed the House in December; this April, the Pentagon announced it was implementing several provisions from the Holley Lynn James Act. Today's bill includes a provision from the Holley Lynn James Act that ensures senior officers -- higher up the chain of command -- review any accusation of sexual assault.
Also included in the Defense bill passed today was an amendment introduced by Braley to expand veterans' mortgage foreclosure protections to spouses of veterans who were killed in action, and disabled veterans. In October, the House passed Braley's Protecting Veterans Homes Act to expand foreclosure protections for returning veterans.
Finally, the Defense bill also included language that would block the US Air Force from following through on their threat to eliminate over 700 jobs at the 132nd Iowa National Guard Fighter wing based at the Des Moines airport. For months, Braley has pressed Congressional leaders and the Pentagon to abandon their plans to downsize the fighter wing.
Dave Loebsack press release, May 18:
Loebsack Amendment to Save 132nd Fighter Wing Passes House
Legislation also includes initiative to boost to Rock Island Arsenal; Housing fix for the Guard; Pay raise for Troops
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack today applauded House passage of critical provisions in the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the legislation was an amendment authored by Loebsack that would prevent personnel and aircraft from the 132nd Fighter Wing based in Des Moines from being retired or cut. As the only Member of Congress from Iowa on the House Armed Services Committee, Loebsack also included a provision that directs the Department of Defense to identify the critical manufacturing capabilities provided by arsenals, including Rock Island Arsenal, and determine the amount of work that is required to maintain them in peacetime.
"The men and women who serve our nation deserve the best support, resources and care available. While I do not support every provision in this bill, I am proud to have addressed many Iowa priorities in this bill and to have addressed critical national security challenges. I am pleased the House voted in a bipartisan fashion to save the 132nd fighter wing, provide a boost for the Rock Island Arsenal and provide a deserved pay increase for the troops. The quality of work being performed, especially by the Iowa Air Guard and the highly-skilled men and women at the Arsenal, is vital to our national security and second to none."
Below are additional details about Loebsack initiatives included in the legislation.
Amendment to save the 132nd Fighter Wing
· The bill includes language authored by Loebsack to prevent personnel cuts and retirements or transfer of Air National Guard aircraft, including the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines. The bipartisan amendment was offered in Committee and was cosponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA).
Boost for Rock Island Arsenal; Stops BRAC rounds
· Congressmen Loebsack and Bobby Schilling (IL-17) worked together to include language that directs the DOD to identify the critical manufacturing capabilities provided by arsenals and determine the amount of work that is required to maintain them in peacetime. The two also joined in fighting to ensure no there will be no BRAC rounds in either FY 2013 or FY 2015.
Housing Benefits Fix for National Guard
· Also included in the NDAA, was Loebsack's legislation that prohibits reductions in the rate of Basic Allowance for Housing for members of the National Guard who transition from full time National Guard duty to active duty or from active duty to full time National Guard duty. Under current policy, some National Guardsmen who make this transition see their benefits reduced at a time when they and their families can least afford it because of a policy that changes how their benefits are calculated.
National Guard Counterdrug Schools
· The legislation reauthorizes the National Guard Counterdrug Schools like the Iowa Guard runs at Camp Dodge (the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center). The Center provides critical training to local law enforcement from across Iowa and the country to help keep drugs off of our streets.
Pay Raise for troops
· As a member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, Loebsack worked to provide a 1.7 percent pay increase in pay for our troops.
Leonard Boswell press release, May 18:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-3) today announced several of his amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310) have passed after being approved by the full House of Representatives late Thursday.
"I am pleased my colleagues in the House supported my amendments to the defense bill in an overwhelmingly bipartisan and unanimous fashion," Boswell said. "We were able to cut through the gridlock and pass commonsense legislation that focuses on our service members and veterans. Providing for the health and well-being of the men and women of our military, as well as those who have already served, requires that we provide the necessary vigilance and support to confront the challenges they face as a result of their service to our country."
The following Boswell amendments were approved by the House:
#215 - Would direct the DoD and VA to conduct a joint study on the incidence rate of breast cancer in service members and veterans.
#216 - Would direct the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the effects of multiple deployments on the well-being of military personnel and their families.
Today, the House will continue voting on the remaining amendments and later consider H.R. 4310 in its entirety.
Tom Latham press release, May 17:
LEGISLATION PROTECTING IOWA'S 132ND FIGHTER WING GETS KEY APPROVAL, CLEARING WAY FOR VOTE BY U.S. HOUSE
CONGRESSMAN LATHAM WORKS TO PASS APPROPRIATIONS MEASURE CONTAINING PROHIBITION TO CLOSE DES MOINES-BASED FIGHTER WING
Washington, May 17 - Iowa Congressman Tom Latham lauded action by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Thursday after the committee approved legislation blocking the proposed retirement of all 21 F-16s attached to the Iowa National Guard's Des Moines based 132nd Fighter Wing. Latham, Iowa's only member of the key committee, has been working closely with House leadership and colleagues on the committee to include language protecting the fighter wing and to clear the legislation for consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives.
The 2013 Defense Appropriations bill would freeze retirement of all National Guard aircraft until a cost-benefit analysis of such retirements could be reviewed by Congress. The legislation would require the Air Force to conduct the cost-benefit analysis by October, with a review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office within 120 days of its completion. Congressman Latham voted with a majority of his colleagues on the panel to approve the legislation on Thursday.
"The proposal to close the 132nd Fighter Wing's F-16s without a fact-based cost-benefit analysis is simply irresponsible and has the potential to weaken our national security," Congressman Latham said. "This committee vote is a very encouraging sign that we can gather all the facts and make a more informed decision that won't jeopardize the security of the United States. The pilots and maintainers of the 132nd Fighter Wing are some of the most experienced in the military. Time and again, they've served our country with distinction and honor. We owe it to them to make the right decision."
The Air Force has proposed a reduction of hundreds of Iowa Air Guard positions due to recent recommendations to retire 21 F-16s in the Des Moines-based 132nd Fighter Wing as part of cost-saving measures. In addition to his work on the appropriations measure cleared Thursday, Congressman Latham has spoken out repeatedly against the proposed Iowa Air Guard cuts, and has met with National Guard officials and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley in an effort to find a better way forward. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in April, Congressman Latham criticized the proposal because of the absence of a cost-benefit analysis and the irreversible elimination of the considerable experience amassed by the decorated fighter wing.
Steve King press release, May 18 (emphasis in original):
King Votes to Halt Air National Guard Cuts in Iowa
Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement today after voting for H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The NDAA sets national defense policy for the upcoming fiscal year and sets up funding authorization for defense and national security programs for FY13. Importantly, the bill included provisions preventing the Air Force from following through on its plans to remove the 132nd Fighter Wing's F-16s from Des Moines and a KC-135 tanker from the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City.
"I voted for the 2012 NDAA reauthorization to show my support for our military, and specifically the Iowa Air National Guard," said King. "President Obama's proposal to scale back the mission of the Iowa Air National Guard with the removal of the F-16s from Des Moines and a KC-135 from Sioux City made no sense from a financial or security stand point. I appreciate the efforts of Governor Branstad and Major General Orr of the Iowa National Guard who helped to galvanize support for Congressional action amongst other Governors and Adjutant Generals from across the county.
I was pleased to support the NDAA on the floor today to ensure that these aircraft stay in Iowa, that the ranks of Iowa's Air National Guard are not diminished, and that the National Guard continues to remain a vibrant component of our national defense."