Remember when this blog was just about complicated Congressional bills instead of my opinions about the election and sexism? After trying (and mostly failing) to write about polls and why they're flawed, I decided to tackle a far easier subject and discuss the most recent defense bill that just passed the House, but will probably be vetoed.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 allocates money to the Department of Defense, which in turn, funds the military. I'll spare you an exhaustive account of everything that's in the bill, because the bill is hundreds of pages long, and I don't have time to read it all. The bill appropriates 23 billion dollars in funding, to allow current military campaigns to continue through April of 2017, at which point, the new president will have to request supplemental funding.
This is where the first controversy comes in, as both the White House, and the Senate Armed Services Committee feel that this bill gambles with military funding, because the money would run out in April, which is unusual for appropriations bills. The White House has accused Congress of "short-funding" the military, and the Senate will likely pass a different bill that appropriates more money, which would mean there would have to be a conference, so that both houses could agree on a bill to send to the president.
Despite this debate, the bill passed the House last night, 277 to 147, but unlike military appropriations bills of the past, almost all the Democrats voted against the bill. "Short-funding" of the military wasn't the only reason Democrats voted against it, but before I go into what's actually in the bill, I'll tell you some proposals that didn't make it in. For example, there was going to be a provision that required women to register for the draft, but that didn't make it into the final bill. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced an amendment to move prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay, but it failed 163-259.
One of the big sticking points in the bill is an amendment that wasn't brought up in the Rules Committee, but added by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) during a mark-up session in late April. The amendment would create protections and exemptions for religious associations and corporations that are also Federal contractors. Gay rights groups argue that an amendment like this would undermine an executive order President Obama signed in 2014 that made it illegal for Federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Several legislators offered amendments to remove the Russell amendment from the bill, on the grounds that further discrimination against LGBTQ people would be an unintended consequence of this broad language. To editorialize, discrimination against LGBTQ people is absolutely an intended consequence of this kind of language, and the GOP knows it.
Even more shady, an amendment proposed by Representative Sean Maloney (D-NY) to strip discriminatory language from the bill actually appeared to be passing the House, until some Republicans were persuaded to change their votes.
Why did people change their votes, even though it appears that voting time is over? According to the many House Democrats I follow on Twitter, Republicans held the vote open while they convinced people to vote against the Amendment.
Both the short-funding, and the discriminatory amendments have led the White House to threaten to veto the bill and right now, enough Democrats have voted against it, that it doesn't seem possible that a veto could be overridden. Does that mean that military funding is in danger? You bet! Remember when we talked about how bad riders are? Without the line item veto, the President can either accept the bill, discrimination and all, or veto both funding and discrimination. Here's hoping both houses can work out a compromise, but at this point, I feel like that's hoping for a new season of Agent Carter; well intentioned, but unlikely and bound to lead to disappointment.