The Senate passed its version of the defense authorization bill, but it also left hundreds of amendments to languish on the floor.
This year the Senate just couldn’t get enough of a consensus to even debate 1 percent of the amendments that lawmakers filed.
And that rose the ire of some senators.
“For all our successes, I regret that the Senate was unable to debate and vote on several matters critical to our national security, many of which enjoyed broad bipartisan support,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said after the bill was passed. “Too often throughout this process, a single senator was able to bring the Senate’s work on our national defense to a halt. This was a breakdown in the decorum of the Senate, and one that will have serious consequences.”
Justin Johnson, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said leaving amendments out to dry is fairly common.
“Regularly there are far more amendments filed in the Senate than are actually debated or voted on,” he told Federal News Radio. “It’s in part because the Senate operates on consensus, so you either have long clocks you have to run through to consider each amendment or you get a unanimous consensus request to take up a particular amendment or package of amendments.”
Johnson said even though an amendment might not make it through, senators still file them as proof they are working for their constituents.
In honor of the amendments that will never be, Federal News Radio compiled a list of important, interesting and bizarre provisions from the Senate version of the 2017 NDAA.
Authorized Use of Military Force
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has been at the forefront of the fight for an Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF). AUMFs get a little complicated, but basically they dictate the terms of how the executive branch can act during a war.
Congress has been clamoring that the war against the Islamic State is not sanctioned by the legislature, which has the constitutional authority to declare war. The Obama administration has been using two AUMFs from the early 2000s to justify its attacks on the Islamic State.
But, many lawmakers say the previous AUMFs were for the war against al-Qaida and the war in Iraq, not for the war against the Islamic State. Kaine offered two amendments. The first repeals the former AUMFs and asks the president to submit a new AUMF for the war against the Islamic State. The amendment also requires the president to report to Congress every six months on the war.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is trying to put her mark on the dietary plans of service members. Ernst’s amendment would have banned “Meatless Mondays.” The critter-free weekday campaign aims to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent. “Meatless Mondays” is a 20-year-old non-profit initiative tries to save the environment and human health by reducing meat consumption.
Ernst wanted to make sure that never happened in the military, citing concerns for service member nutrition. Ernst also represents a state big in agribusiness.
Acquisition reform has been a major motif in the defense authorization bills of the past two years. This year, the Senate version of the bill tackled contracting. Specifically, lessening cost-plus contracts and putting more emphasis on fixed-price contracts.
When it comes to Sen. James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) amendment on acquisition transparency, the Senate just didn’t get around to debating it.
Lankford’s amendment would have ensured the Defense Department establish and implement policy that acquisition programs of major systems establish cost, schedule and performance goals at the onset of the program. It also required major acquisition programs report on the original cost, schedule and performance goals throughout the program for transparency
McCain had his own amendment snubbed during this year’s amendment process. He offered an amendment that would make it easier for companies to transport goods.
The U.S. has export controls on controlled substances. That’s so important technologies or dangerous substances don’t leave the country and end up in another nation. McCain’s amendment would have let companies with facilities in the U.S. and approved countries to move controlled substances between their buildings without government approval.
The theory goes that easing the transfer regulations would take some burden off of companies so they can focus their resources more on innovation
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced this amendment that would create a fund to encourage clean audits and funds readiness.
The amendment would have created a Financial Audit Incentive Fund. Money in the fund would be available to military departments with issues financing operational training exercises like home station training or joint training directed by the combatant commanders.
The catch is departments can only access the fund if their financial statements give a true and fair view of the organization.
The amendment would have authorized about $100 million for the fund.