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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LEVIN. Let me try in 5 minutes to encapsulate what is in the bill and why we are where we are.

The bill includes numerous provisions, as the Presiding Officer knows, to sustain the compensation and quality of life of our service men and women and their families--the quality of life they deserve as they face the hardships that are imposed by continuing military operations around the world.

In just a few of these provisions are 30 types of bonuses and special pay, $25 million for supplemental impact aid to local education agencies with military dependent children, money to assist the Department of Defense in assisting veterans in their transition to civilian life, provisions for the Special Operations Command at $9 billion, $1 billion for counter-IED efforts, a provision to require the Department of Defense to streamline the Department of Defense management headquarters at all levels by changing or reducing the size of staffs and eliminating tiers of management, cutting functions that provide little or no added value, and a new land withdrawal provision that the Marine Corps has been working so hard on at 29 Palms, CA. This is the No. 1 legislative priority of the Marine Corps. The Commandant explained to us that the Marine Corps has spent 6 years analyzing and preparing for this expansion so the Corps can meet its minimum training criteria.

As General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told us a few weeks ago, the authorities in this Defense bill ``are critical to the Nation's defense and are urgently needed to ensure we keep faith with the men and women, military and civilians, selflessly serving in our armed forces.''

Relative to the question of amendments which has been raised, we tried when this bill came to the floor to get consent to have amendments relate to the Defense authorization bill and we were unable to get that consent. We tried to get consent to adopt almost 40 cleared amendments as a managers' package. We could not get consent to do that. We asked to lock in 13 additional amendments for votes on both sides of the aisle, but equally divided, without prejudice as to further amendments that could be brought up but, again, there was objection.

Now, at this point, here is where we are. With the House of Representatives having left for the year, the only way we are going to get a defense bill enacted is by passing the bill before us as it stands. If it is amended, the bill would have to go back to the House of Representatives and the result would be we would get nothing enacted, killing both amendments as well as the bill itself. It would put the Defense authorization bill in limbo.

We have never done that. We have faced situations similar to this 2 years of the prior 5. We have always managed to pass a National Defense Authorization Act for 51 straight years. We followed the process in 2 of those last 5 years, which is not dissimilar to this process which we are following this year.

Does that make this the best way to proceed? No. It is not the best way to proceed. But that is not the choice we face. Our troops and their families and our Nation's security deserve a defense bill. The bill before us is right for our troops, for their families, for our Nation's security, and it was produced in a bipartisan manner. Senator Inhofe, my ranking member, is here, and I think he will attest to the fact that we adopted dozens of amendments in our committee work on a bipartisan basis.

This bill deserves a strong bipartisan vote of the Senate today, but to do that the motion to table, which I understand is about to be made, needs to be defeated.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. LEVIN. Well, the sexual assault amendments which were pending, as my good friend from Arizona knows, were debated. There are about 20-plus sexual assault amendments that are in the bill so it makes major advances in that area.

In terms of the two amendments that I think the Senator is referring to--the amendments of Senator McCaskill and Senator Gillibrand--there was about a day-long debate on those, and there was an effort to vote on them. I think everybody wanted to vote on those two amendments, but there was objection to it.

In terms of what I believe the Senator is driving at, there was a time--I think it was in 2011 or 2012--when a Defense authorization bill was, in fact, adopted by unanimous consent. I think there was no debate on the bill that was finally adopted.

Having said that, I happen to agree this is not the ideal way to adopt a defense bill. I have said that over and over. And I have pointed out the way in which we tried to at least get some amendments adopted, including about 30 that had been agreed to and had been cleared, but we couldn't even get those added.

Now, with Senator Inhofe's help, we were able to get much of the material in those amendments that were worked out between us and the House leaders so that they are in this bill; not all of the amendments that had been cleared but many of them. But I happen to agree with my friends, this is not the ideal way to proceed. But we are now where we are, and if we simply reopen this bill and do not adopt it the way it is, it then has to go back to the House of Representatives, and then there would not be a defense bill, with all of the then-problems that would be created for our troops and their families. So this is the best we can do, but it is not ideal.

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