Monday, January 14, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

The House of Representatives returns from recess on January 15; the Senate will resume work next week. One of the first orders of business is the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization conference agreement. President Bush vetoed the bill because of an obscure provision on Iraq. The House is expected to try to override that veto this week.

Aside from primaries and caucuses, next up:
January 28 - President Bush's State of the Union address
February 4 - Presentation of the Fiscal Year 2009 budget to Congress


As Congress left town in December, it approved $70 billion of the estimated $196 billion Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The bill was called a "bridge," in that it would provide temporary funding for current operations until the full amount could be considered later this year. Congress is expected to consider the remainder of the money in March or April.

Earlier versions of the measure would have required some U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 30 days after the bill was enacted, and it set a goal – but not a requirement –that most troops be brought home by December 15, 2008. In addition to these measures, the bill required more time at home between tours of duty in Iraq, banned waterboarding and other torture techniques, and prohibited the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq. The House approved the bill by a 218 - 203 vote. The Senate refused to bring up the bill; it voted 53 - 45 in favor of beginning debate, but 60 votes were required and the bill died. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to bring up a $70 billion bill to pay for the wars that had no restrictions, but his measure died 45 - 53.

On December 18, the Senate approved the Omnibus Appropriations bill that included the $70 billion to pay for the wars by a vote of 76 - 17 after adopting a McConnell (R-KY) motion to appropriate the $70 billion with no conditions. On December 19, the House approved the $70 billion without any conditions by a vote of 272 - 142.


On May 2, the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee marked-up or wrote its portion of the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill. The Subcommittee cut $45 million from the Administration's $119 million request for a new generation of nuclear weapons called the Reliable Replacement Warhead, leaving $74 million intact. The Subcommittee established a "congressionally-appointed, bipartisan congressional commission to re-evaluate the U.S. strategic posture." The Subcommittee also cut $764 million from the Administration's $10.2 billion request for the missile defense programs, including $160 million from the proposed third ground-based midcourse defense site in Europe, $400 million from the Airborne Laser program and all $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed.

On May 9, the full House Armed Services Committee approved the bill. While some funding for the Airborne Laser program (a component of the national missile defense system) and for other programs was restored, the funds came from other missile defense programs, leaving the top line cut to missile defense at $764 million. The Committee also agreed to the $45 million reductions from the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed and $24.9 million from the facility to build new plutonium cores for weapons, while agreeing to increase the Pentagon's Cooperative Threat Reduction program by $50 million to $398 million and increase the Energy Department's nuclear non-proliferation programs by $150 million to $1.8 billion.

On May 17, the House adopted the bill by a vote of 397 - 27. Before final passage, the House: rejected 136 - 288 a DeFazio (D-OR) amendment to bar a U.S. attack on Iran without prior Congressional approval; rejected 202 - 216 an Andrews (D-NJ) amendment to bar spending in the bill on planning contingency operations in Iran; rejected 127 - 299 a Tierney (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion from missile defense; rejected 199 - 226 a Franks (R-AZ) amendment to restore the $764 million cut from missile defense in the committee; and rejected 201 - 219 a King (R-IA) amendment to weaken a provision in the bill barring U.S. permanent military bases in Iraq. On a motion by Rep. Hunter (R-CA) to recommit the bill with instructions (a procedural move immediately before final passage), the House added $205 million for missile defense programs that help Israel.

On May 24, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the $648.8 billion bill. In some highlights, the Committee added $100 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, added $87 million for the Department of Energy non-proliferation programs and cut $43 million from the Administration's request for $238 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, (note: the Senate is using a different number for this program than the House). While approving $10.1 billion for missile defense, the committee cut $85 million from the request of $310.4 million for the third missile defense site in Europe and cut $200 million from the airborne laser program.

The full Senate began debating the bill the week of July 9. The Senate voted 56 - 41 for the Webb (D-VA) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment that would have mandated minimum periods for soldiers between deployments to Iraq, but the measure failed because 60 votes were needed for passage. A similar Hagel (R-NE) amendment No. 2032 barring Army soldiers from serving for more than 12 consecutive months in Iraq and Marines from serving for more than seven months garnered a 52 - 45 majority, but was turned back as 60 votes were required for adoption. After the Senate voted 52 - 47 for cloture on the Levin (D-MI) - Reed (D-RI) amendment (with 60 votes required to close debate), Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the Defense Authorization bill from the Senate floor.

The Senate resumed its consideration of the bill on September 17. A Webb (D-VA) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment requiring more rest and training for U.S. troops before being sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan failed 56 - 44, with 60 votes required for passage. A Feingold (D-WI) - Reid (D-NV) amendment was defeated 28 - 70. The amendment would have mandated the beginning of the withdrawal of most American forces from Iraq 90 days after enactment of the bill, with funds cut off for any American forces remaining in Iraq after June 30, 2008 except for counterterrorism, training and protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel. A Levin (D-MI) & Reed (D-RI) amendment also failed, this time 47 - 47, with 60 votes needed for adoption. It would have mandated the beginning of withdrawal of American forces from Iraq within 90 days of enactment and completed the withdrawal of most troops within nine months of enactment.

The Kyl (R-AZ), Lieberman (I-CT) amendment urging the Iranian Revolutionary Corps be designated as a terrorist organization on Iran was approved 76 - 22, although language authorizing the use of force against Iranian forces was deleted.

On October 1, the Senate approved the bill by a 92 - 3 vote.

The week of December 10, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The House vote was 370 - 49 on December 12; the Senate vote was 90 - 3 on December 14. The $507 billion bill provided $66 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, barred funding for converting Trident nuclear submarines to carry conventional warheads, cut $85 million for construction and deployment at the Europe-based missile defense and established a 12-person commission to study U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

On December 28, President Bush vetoed the bill.

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