Alabama delegation votes for $610B defense bill, despite White House objections

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Alabama House Delegation

After two days of debate, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $610 billion defense spending bill by a 277-147 vote late Wednesday night, setting up a summer-long negotiation with their Senate counterparts over necessary military priorities and policy.

The bill, H.R. 4909: the National Defense Authorization Act, authorizes spending for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs, as well as foreign military operations for FY 2017. Additionally, it improves access to quality care for service members, retirees, and their families, while enhancing medical readiness. These reforms make no changes for the current force or retirees.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell was the sole Alabama House Member to vote against the bill. She joined 147 of her Democratic peers, along with just five Republicans, in voting against the measure. The remainder of the seven-member Alabama delegation — Reps. Bradley Bryne, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Mo Brooks and Gary Palmer — voted in support of the bill.

Among its many provisions and reforms, the NDAA includes:

  • Military Personnel and Pay: Supports a 2.1 percent pay raise for service members, which is higher than the President’s proposal of 1.6 percent.
  • BRAC: Prohibits another round of base closings.
  • Strengthens Military: Reverses cuts to troop strength; increases investments in training and maintenance programs; and rebuilds crumbling facilities like barracks, hangars, and airfields.
  • Readiness: Makes vital investments in maintenance by including an increase of $597 million for the Navy and Marine Corps, $312 million for the Army, and $430 million more for the Air Force to ensure next-to-deploy units are mission capable.
  • Deterring Russia: Provides funds for more troops and equipment in Europe to deter Russia, as well as additional funds to assist Ukraine.
  • Fighting ISIS: Provides funds to train and equip Syrian fighters and assist Iraqis in retaking Mosul, and adds funds to make sure that Kurdish and Sunni allies can stay in the fight.
  • Commissaries: Reforms the commissary system to preserve the benefit, while also making improvements to ensure continued saving for shoppers, good value for taxpayers, and ongoing support for morale, welfare, and recreational activities.
  • Reforms Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): Modernizes the Uniform Code of Military Justice to improve the system’s efficiency and transparency, while also enhancing victims’ rights and expands the statute of limitations for child abuse offenses and fraudulent enlistment.

Before the vote, the White House issued a veto threat over the bill on Monday due to a number of provisions.

A primary White House complaint is that the House bill leaves U.S. war-fighting obligations underfunded, setting the stage for the need of a potential midyear supplemental appropriation.

“By gambling with war-fighting funds, the bill risks the safety of our men and women fighting to keep America safe, undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles our allies, and emboldens our enemies,” the White House said in a statement.

Meanwhile, House Republicans say the spending plan is critical to ensure the military has the resources it needs, as it wages wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Here’s what delegation members are saying about their votes:

Bradley Byrne_YesU.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01):

It seems like every day a new report comes out about the dire situation our military is in. That’s why it is so important this year’s NDAA makes critical investments in boosting military readiness to ensure we can respond to the wide range of threats facing our country. The bill also makes long-needed reforms to ensure efficiency and accountability at the Pentagon.

Martha Roby_YesU.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02):

No comment available at this time.

Mike Rogers_YesU.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03):

This is the 55th consecutive NDAA, legislation that authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and ensures that Congress fulfills its constitutional duty to make sure that our warfighters have the training and equipment that they need.

In addition to setting the priorities for our national defense, this legislation also has language that could be important to folks across East Alabama.

Robert Aderholt_YesRep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04):

No comment available at this time.

Mo Brooks_YesRep. Mo Brooks (AL-05):

In recent years, America’s national security capabilities have been hampered and hollowed out by the unwillingness of Congress and the President to properly fund America’s military.

The FY17 NDAA takes a step toward restoring vital funding, modernizing equipment, and providing our warfighters with the personnel and weaponry needed to protect America.  In addition, the FY17 NDAA improves accountability by reforming acquisition laws and enhancing cyber security.

Gary Palmer_YesRep. Gary Palmer (AL-06):

No comment available at this time.

 

Terri Sewell_NoRep. Terri Sewell (AL-07):

As a Member of Congress, I am fully committed to ensuring that our brave men and women in uniform have all of the support necessary to protect and defend our great nation from threats both foreign and domestic. My vote on the NDAA in no way undermines that unyielding commitment to preserving our national security, and ensuring our military has the resources that it needs to meet ongoing and emerging threats around the world. However, I am deeply concerned that this bill would set a dangerous precedent by promoting uncertainty for our military at a time when it desperately needs reliable support.

… Ultimately, we must put partisan politics aside and pass a defense authorization bill to maintain the safety and security of all Americans. Since President Obama has already indicated his intention to veto this bill, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a national defense authorization bill which appropriately funds all necessary government services and military obligations.

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