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Schumer Holding Up Defense Authorization Bill

Why is top Senate Dem treading water on defense funding?

These days seldom are Republicans and Democrats on the same page. But the failure of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2022 to the Senate floor for a vote has members of both parties hopping mad.

New Banner Military AffairsIn previous articles, Liberty Nation has explained the importance and significance of the defense authorization bill. In short, it is the congressional approval for the Department of Defense (DOD) to spend funds obtained by the appropriations committees. In the last 60 years, there have been only four occasions when the Senate voted on a defense authorization bill in November or later, according to ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) office. In a press conference, Inhofe went on to explain the importance of this authorizing legislation. He said:

“I just want to make the comment – I don’t have to remind everyone that we’re in the most – I believe the most – endangered position our country has ever been in, in terms of what China has demonstrated clearly what they have the capability of doing. Same thing with Russia, North Korea, Iran, and I think we all understand – that it’s not just members of the committee – that our top priority is national security. And that’s what the NDAA is.”

Inhofe went on to complain that he is stumped as to why Schumer is dragging his heels on the NDAA. He stated, “The major message we need to send is to Senator Schumer. I have no idea why we don’t have floor time now.” The bill is ready to be debated in the upper chamber, and delays disrupt the preparation of amendments and general floor discussion for both parties. The House has already passed the bill, leaving the Senate vote as the last remaining obstacle. As Roll Call’s Mark Satter points out, dissatisfaction with the hold up of Senate consideration is a bipartisan issue. He reports the chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), is not amused by Schumer’s apparent lack of interest in taking care of national security business. As Satter put it:

“The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday buttressed complaints from Republican lawmakers that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer was taking too long to bring the annual defense policy bill to the floor. ‘I am very distressed. It’s all sitting right there, and for some reason, Schumer has decided not to do it, and there’s no reason for that,’ Adam Smith, D-Wash., told reporters. Smith’s gripe came just hours after Senate Republicans held a news conference to decry the New York Democrat’s decision to prioritize nominations and other issues thus far this fall.”

Senate Luncheons, 11/02/21

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

In a Politico report on Chairman Smith’s displeasure, the representative told reporters that he was “extraordinarily frustrated” the Senate had not passed the bill. Smith called it “an unforced error on the part of Schumer. He’s the guy in charge. He’s the guy who’s decided not to bring it up.”

The bill’s importance is not simply a matter of funding critical DOD programs, as well as military and civilian personnel. The magnitude of the bill, at $777.9 billion, carries a significance all its own. Increases in the Navy and Air Force budget lines presage a real focus on threats from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. On that very point, failing even to debate the bill gives credence to Republican senators’ accusation that Democrats “aren’t taking China and other national security challenges seriously as long as the bill lingers without a vote.”

Whatever his reasons, Senator Schumer’s apparent arbitrary nonchalance about the authorization of funding to keep the U.S. military afloat places critical military modernization, sustainment of legacy programs, and personnel initiatives in jeopardy. As Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), also a member of the SASC, suggested: “Let the 100 members of the Senate act on one of the most significant pieces of legislation that we will consider this Congress.” Senator Schumer, the ball is in your court.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.

Read more from Dave Patterson.

Read More From Dave Patterson

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