Politics

Senators trade jabs before vote to proceed on military authorization bill

Chris Moody Contributor
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While Republican senators fume over the inclusion of two amendments added to the annual defense bill that would authorize military funding, Democrats say they’re not doing anything unusual.

Of the amendments offered, one would repeal the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay service members and another would implement the DREAM Act, which offers children of illegal immigrants who weren’t born in the country a pathway to citizenship if they spend two years in college or join the military.

Although members of Congress on both sides of the aisle propose amendments to the bill each year, the measure, which provides authority to military leaders to implement salary decisions and other critical funding measures for national defense, usually passes easily.

But with the inclusion of the controversial amendments so close to the midterm elections, there is a chance that it could be held up for the first time in nearly a half-century.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that by putting forth a vote on the DREAM Act before the election, Democrats were “clearly” politicizing the debate.

“Why would you want to have some votes before the election, and other votes on the bill after the election? It’s blatantly political,” McCain said Monday. “It’s the most politicization in a defense bill that I have ever seen.”

Calling a vote that includes the amendments a “show” during a floor speech Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Democrats were using the bill as a last ditch effort to push contentious legislation while they still can.

“It seems like the more Americans say they want Democrats to stop what they’re doing and focus on jobs and the economy, the more determined they are to press ahead with their various liberal agenda items while they’ve still got the chance. And that’s basically what today’s vote on the Defense Authorization Bill is all about,” McConnell said.

Democrats countered that there is nothing unusual about including amendments in the authorization bill. During a press conference Monday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, shot back at McCain for complaining about the amendments.

“When Senator McCain repeatedly says that extraneous items were never offered or put on the defense authorization bill, he’s just clearly wrong,” Levin said, referring to McCain’s recent statement that “we never put any extraneous items on the bill.” He cited the time when McCain proposed a campaign-finance amendment to the authorization bill ten years earlier.

The White House voiced support for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” measure Tuesday morning, adding that it was “consistent with the standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.”

The Senate will vote on a motion to take up the bill at 2:30 PM today.

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