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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COLE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is quite simple. It prohibits any funds in this bill from being used to conduct military operations in Libya, a place where I believe we are engaged in an illegal and certainly unauthorized conflict.

Mr. Chairman, I feel a little bit today like a lawyer with two very unpopular clients. One of them is Libya, and the other one is the United States Congress. But in this case, each one of them has an important point to make.

With respect to Libya, let me make it clear, I don't believe anybody in this Chamber supports Mr. Qadhafi, supports that regime, or wishes it well in any way. But Libya did not attack the United States of America. Libya did not attack any member of NATO. Libya has not allowed al Qaeda to operate with impunity out of its territory. A number of years ago, Libya turned over nuclear material to the United States.

Quite simply, however much we detest Mr. Qadhafi and his regime, we have no reason to be at war or conducting military operations in Libya. And, frankly, if we allow that situation to continue, I think we have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to attack any nation any time that we disagree with a regime that we don't like simply because the President chooses to do so?

More troubling than the attack on Libya, in my view, is the circumvention of this body, the United States Congress, and its warmaking authority under both the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Only Congress has the ability to authorize and fund military operations.

The administration consulted with NATO. The administration consulted with the United Nations. The administration consulted with the Arab League. It never, in any real sense, consulted with the Congress of the United States before beginning military operations in Libya.

Two weeks ago, this House made clear its opposition to the Libyan venture by refusing to authorize even the limited use of force. We should build on that by removing funding today.

Some may question whether or not this amendment is germane to this particular piece of legislation. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I worked very carefully with the Parliamentarian on the language, and, more importantly, it's modeled after the famous Boland amendment of 1983 to the Defense approps bill that year that was approved by this body 411-0.

Some may argue, like the administration, that we really aren't engaged in hostilities in Libya. That simply is laughable. Attorneys at both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice of this administration believe that our activity requires congressional authorization under the War Powers Act.

We've flown over a thousand combat sorties over Libyan airspace. We've launched 228 Tomahawk missiles. We've launched over a hundred Predators. We're refueling and supporting NATO aircraft that are engaged in attacking Libya every single day. If that's not war on our side of this situation, I can assure you that people on the other side consider it war and certainly consider it hostile.

The reality is we should not be engaged in military action of this level unless it's authorized and funded by the Congress of the United States.

In Libya, the President has, quite simply, overreached. However, in Congress, we have so far allowed him to do so. We've not authorized this activity. There's not a single line in the Defense authorization bill or in this bill which actually funds this activity, and we ought to explicitly prohibit the President from concluding.

I think, like many in this body, this is a very important moment for the Congress of the United States. Whether or not we claim warmaking authority and exercise our power under the Constitution is really the issue here. You could be for the Libyan venture and still be able to support this legislation, or you could be against it.

At the end of the day, it's extraordinarily important that we stop the erosion of the warmaking authority and responsibility of the Congress of the United States, that we end this ill-advised adventure in Libya, and that we reassert the rightful place of this institution in conducting war and authorizing it and funding it.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. COLE. Mr. Chairman, in April a draft executive order was circulated that would require all companies bidding on Federal contracts to disclose all Federal campaign contributions.

If enacted, this executive order would effectively politicize the Federal procurement process, in my opinion. Companies wouldn't merely be judged by the merits of their past performance, by the capability to do the job, but would also be obviously considered on the basis of who they gave money to or against.

This would clearly chill the constitutionally protected right to donate to political parties, candidates and causes of one's choice; and, I think, frankly, that's exactly what the executive order, proposed executive order, is intended to do.

My amendment would simply prohibit funds from this act being used to implement such an executive order.

It doesn't change existing Federal campaign contribution law in any way. It doesn't prevent the disclosure of campaign contributions. It simply says we won't spend money from this bill to require campaign contribution information to be submitted along with bids for Federal contracts.

This House has agreed to this concept on three previous occasions: once in the bill, once in an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, and once in an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act.

Finally, it's worth noting that Congress has rejected an effort to do exactly what this proposed executive order intends to do when it failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act in 2010.

Mr. Chairman, pay-to-play has no place in the Federal procurement contract, and we should try to keep politics out of the selection of vendors and businesses and contractors to go about doing Federal works. So I would urge the adoption of the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. COLE. I would simply say to my good friend from Washington, who I respect frankly as much I do anybody in this Congress, the intent here is to make sure we never link political contributions with the awarding of government contracts. If we want to require additional disclosure, the Congress has it within its ability to do that, and indeed we considered something like this in 2010 and decided it was inappropriate. And that was a time when my friends on the other side of the aisle were in control of both Houses as well the Presidency.

So I understand the concerns, but I think this is an inappropriate way to address them. Number one, the executive order, frankly, is legislating through the back door. If we want to change the campaign contribution laws in the United States, that needs to be done here, not by executive fiat.

And, secondly, to link it with the contracting process is inevitably going to raise questions, create fears and doubt and I think without question chill political speech. So let's just simply keep contracting and the awarding of the contract by the Government of the United States separate from partisan political considerations and contributions. I think we would be better off.

I thank my friend from Georgia for yielding.


Mr. COLE. Mr. Chairman, I want to offer a somewhat different perspective than my friend from Massachusetts does on the trend line of defense spending.

Looking at the long term, defense spending has actually, over time, come down pretty dramatically as a percent of our gross national product. In 1960, at the height of the Cold War, we spent about 9 percent of the GDP on defense. In 1980 in the great Reagan defense buildup, it was about 6 percent. It fell as low as 3.5 percent on the eve of 9/11. It is barely 5 percent, or in that range, today. So by historical standards, particularly since 1940, we do not spend a large percentage of the national wealth on defense.

By the way, the same thing is true of the Federal budget. In 1960, about 50 percent of the Federal budget was defense spending. It was about 33 percent in 1980. It is about 18 or 19 percent today. Certainly a lot of money, and that is certainly not the only way in which to judge military spending, but if looked at in terms of the size of the Federal budget or the wealth of the country, defense has been, comparatively speaking, a bargain compared to other parts of the budget.

I would also like to point out that, frankly, this Defense Subcommittee and the administration have worked to find additional economies. Secretary Gates made $78 billion in reductions over the next 5 years, and this budget itself is below what the President of the United States asked us to appropriate by $9 billion. In addition, the Secretary has laid out a path for an additional $400 billion worth of savings.

I think most Americans would be shocked to find out we are engaged in two or three wars, depending on how you want to count, with an Army that is almost 40 percent smaller than it was in 1982.

So I yield to no one in terms of trying to find savings in defense, but I think the record ought to be clear: As a percentage of our national wealth, as a percentage of the Federal budget, what we spend on defense has come down. And, frankly, we ought to remember that we are at war; we are in a dangerous situation. This is not the first place to cut, although cut we have. In my opinion, I think it is the last place that we ought to cut.

And the consequences of what my friend proposes, I think, would be terrific. We would be reducing and canceling training for returning troops, canceling Navy training exercises, reducing Air Force flight training, delaying or canceling maintenance of aircraft, ships, and vehicles, and delaying important safety and quality-of-life repairs.

This is not the time for us to embark on additional cuts on top of the restraints in spending that we have already done as a House. I would urge the rejection of my friend's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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