Yesterday morning, we voted again on the National Defense Authorization Act.
Yesterday morning, we voted again on the National Defense Authorization Act. It came back based on the President’s veto threat on the first bill’s use of contingency funds as a way of getting around the budget caps.
I support national defense. I support the men and women in uniform who go into harm’s way and those who once did. I think defense is one of the few things the federal government should do. In fact, doing so is even based on constitutional prescription, but how we do so is what these bills are based on – and based on what this bill did on three important areas, I voted no as I had in the last bill. Here is my reasoning:
Congress had not fulfilled its constitutional duty to vote on the authorization for use of military force. The bill broke the spending caps created by the Budget Control Act. Finally, it used an important tool for war funding, Overseas Contingency Operations, as a way to get around the budget caps.
My primary problem, the fact that Congress didn’t fulfill its constitutional obligation, is actually even more concerning now that we have troops on the ground in Syria. There’s a practical principle and a higher principle at work here. The higher principle is that only Congress has the authority to declare war. Since Congress hasn’t, the President is constitutionally prohibited from deploying American forces. This is not what we are doing these days, and soldiers are in harm’s way. Congress must not abdicate its role in declaring war for what it means in clear support and resolve for troops on the ground and for what it means in protecting the Founders design in the separation of powers.
This bill was also the first of many major laws that will take advantage of the new budget deal. Breaking the caps destroyed the one major achievement that the Republican Congress had on controlling spending. I wrote a few days ago on just how bad that budget deal was for the taxpayer, with a $1.5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling along with breaking the budget caps to the tune of $80 billion in new spending. This bill goes along with that new reality by adding $30 billion in additional spending on defense...and because defense got it, other areas of government will to. In short, this was the first bill to codify much greater spending in all government, and I think this is a bad idea given what Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said on the dangers of more debt.
Even with the caps falling by the wayside, the bill still included an extra $59 billion in spending through the Overseas Contingency Operations fund! This is an account that’s supposed to be reserved for funding military operations in wartime. In short, the bill used a budget gimmick to get around even the new, and enlarged, budget caps - and I believe this too will lead to considerably more spending in other areas of government.
With those issues in mind, I voted again no.