McCain, Reed, Bennet, Gardner, Portman

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Senator McCain: (9:59 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "So I understand that my friend from Rhode Island will be proposing an amendment later on to nullify the funding of O.C.O., which would then, by the way, have the effect of reducing the funding and authorization rather dramatically and cancel many vitally needed programs, equipment, and training for the men and women who are serving in the military, and that's fine. But that'll be defeated. And once it's defeated, I hope -- I hope and pray that we will then move forward with the amendment process, which has been absent for the last two years - totally absent for the last two years - and not for the first time in 53 years, not pass a defense authorization bill through the Congress of the United States. For 53 years, through Democrat and Republican majorities, through liberal and conservative, we have authorized because our highest responsibility is the security of this nation. And I urge all of my colleagues, we want to have this fight, have it on the appropriations, the money bill."


Senator Reed: (10:09 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "And what we've done, effectively, in the bill - and I think it's not because it's the chairman's first choice, it's the only available option given the budget resolution -- is that we have taken the overseas contingency accounts, bulked them up dramatically, and sent a new pathway, which next year, unless we resolve this issue of the Budget Control Act, welcome back again with more money for O.C.O., and the following year, and also, as pointed out, we will have situations where we will find some very strange things happening in our O.C.O. account because we can't fund legitimate concerns of the government in other areas because of caps, and that's essentially is what happened in the 1980's. That's why we have medical research money in the Department of Defense. Not just the Department of Defense does it but because that was the only option in the 1980's. I think the other issue here which is very implicit in our activities is that this bill is aimed at the department of defense and military activities of the department of energy. Our national security is much more than that."


Senator Bennet: (10:13 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "We have to hold the V.A. accountable to our taxpayers so we can move forward on the rocky mountain region veterans for the care they need. And the V.A. and Congress are going to have to work hard together to get this project back on track. Finding the money to do this will be painful. It will be difficult, which is why we need to ensure that we account for every dollar that's been spent. But failing to complete this hospital is not an option. It would be a broken promise. Having a half-finished hospital in Colorado would be a national disgrace and we cannot allow it to happen on behalf of our veterans, it would be a disservice, worse than a disservice. A broken promise of the worst kind to the hundreds of thousands of veterans across the rocky mountain region and throughout the United States, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment."


Senator Gardner: (10:16 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "Along with the chairman of the Veterans' Committee who has joined us on the floor today, Johnny Isakson, Senator Isakson, who is here today with us who is in support of this amendment to bring more accountability to the V.A. system so that we can understand what went wrong when they were building not only the Aurora facility, but what went wrong around the country as project after project has seen cost overruns and delays. Veterans gathered this past week in Colorado to rally to finish the damned thing. And we have a Veterans Administration who time and time again has failed to take into account the necessary measures, policies to fix it and to prevent it from ever happening again. And with this amendment, we can start to find out where they went wrong and to hold them accountable. When the only person who has been fired is the person who said we were going to have a problem, there's something wrong with that."


Senator Reed: (10:18 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "First, the Army has the capability going forward, if this program becomes so critical and they raise it to high priority to request a reprogramming of funds, to move money from one less significant priority to this program. That's an option that you have, and that's an option they may well choose to use. But it will only be after their careful consideration of the other priorities that are facing the Army. And I think that's the way, a better way to do it. The other factor that I would point out is the pay-for for this program is the foreign currency accounts. Basically that's a hedge within the Department of Defense for their international transactions and the value of the U.S. dollar versus other currencies. Well, the dollar is strong, and so there appears to be additional, excess funds in that account. But currency over the next year could change dramatically. And we've already put significant pressure on this supposed excess funding."


Senator Portman: (10:25 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "If we wait another 12 months, another year to do this, who knows what's going to happen. I know one thing, having been in Eastern Europe recently. Those countries in Europe, our NATO partners in particular but also Ukraine, they are looking to the United States of America to show the commitment that we have made on paper to ensure that we have that commitment in terms of our capability on the ground in Europe. Again, this is an issue where I think we should come together as Democrats and Republicans. It is a bipartisan amendment. I commend Senator Peters for identifying this need with the army. I understand Senator Reed's concern that this came late in the process, but it's here. The request has been made."