The Intercept - December 10, 2019
"Pentagon funding has divided Democrats under Trump. Those on the left, and most Democrats running for president in 2020, have called for overall reductions in military spending. But in Congress, Democrats have continued to support spending packages as Trump’s budget requests for the Pentagon grow larger and larger."
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Congress’s Armed Services committees released a compromise bill on Monday that would authorize $738 billion in military spending in 2020, a $22 billion increase over 2019. If passed, the bill would formally establish President Donald Trump’s proposed “Space Force” as a sixth armed service and bring total annual Pentagon spending increases under Trump to more than $130 billion.
But Democrats on the left flank of the party argue that the compromise signs away important restrictions on Trump’s war-making powers included in the House version of the bill, where an amendment backed by progressives would have prohibited the Trump administration from using any funds to launch an unauthorized, offensive war against Iran.
The compromise also stripped out a measure long backed by California Democrat Ro Khanna that would have prohibited U.S. military support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and one from New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski that would have banned the sale of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In a joint statement, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Khanna, who is Sanders’s campaign chair, called the National Defense Authorization Act “a bill of astonishing moral cowardice,” and said that Congress should not pass the compromise version.
“There is no pressing reason for Congress to shower Trump, his Saudi friends, and the Pentagon contractors of the military-industrial complex with this $738 billion taxpayer giveaway right now,” Sanders and Khanna said. “We owe it to the American people to go back to the drawing board.”
Different versions of the NDAA passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate earlier this year, and for the past three months, members of the Armed Services committees have been negotiating the specifics of the massive policy and funding authorization package.
Most members of Congress consider the NDAA “must-pass” legislation, so members fight to attach their amendments. But the final details were worked out behind closed doors by the committee responsible for reconciling the House and Senate versions.
The top-line spending figure is consistent with a bipartisan budget deal reached earlier this year, and the basic contours of the compromise were reported last week by the Wall Street Journal. In exchange for Republicans getting to formalize Trump’s touted “Space Force,” Democrats will get to add 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees who have worked in the government for at least a year, not just employees of the Department of Defense who already have that benefit.
In addition, the bill would provide a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the armed services; strengthen military housing oversight by requiring the services to develop a tenants’ bill of rights; expand visas for Afghans who have helped U.S. forces; and restrict the military’s use of toxic PFAS chemicals on bases, which have been linked to a range of health problems for active-duty personnel.
In a joint statement, Democrats and Republicans on both Armed Services committees said that the bill was a “bipartisan, bicameral agreement” that “puts our troops and America’s security first by continuing to rebuild our military,” and “[cares] for our service members and their families.” ...
Read full report at The Intercept