8 Amendments That Could Improve The House Defense Bill

The deadline for House members to submit their proposed amendments to the Lower Chamber’s version of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed on Tuesday, leaving an avalanche of offered changes in its wake. While the House NDAA will still need to be merged with its eventual Senate counterpart in conference committee, many of its provisions will likely find themselves in the final bill.

A total of 291 amendments were sent to the House Rules Committee, which will decide on Wednesday how the floor debate will proceed and how many of these amendments will be discussed. ThinkProgress read through them all so you don’t have to, pulling out some of the amendments that would do the most to improve the bill that moves forward:

1. Repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) frequently touts the fact that she was the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF when first written in 2001. Now, twelve years later, Lee is still fighting to repeal it, but now she has President Obama’s backing — in principle. Obama has expressed an interest in revising the AUMF before it’s eventual repeal, but Lee’s amendment jumps straight to the end. If passed, it would have the AUMF repealed on Jan. 1, 2015 or when the war ends in Afghanistan, whichever comes first.

2. Set up a framework to close Gitmo.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) serves as the Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee, a position from which he has long advocated the closure of the military prision at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This year, he and several of his colleagues are attempting to insert language into the NDAA doing just that. While it’s a long shot, if it passed Smith’s amendment would add into the NDAA the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2013, which would lift the ban on transferring detainees into the U.S. for imprisonment or trial and cutting off all funding to the prison after 2014.

3. Add more oversight to the administration’s targeted killing program.

House Armed Services Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) won passage in committee of his provision to have the Secretary of Defense brief his committee and its Senate counterpart every time the administration conducted a kill or capture operation outside of Afghanistan. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants to expand that oversight even further. Under Engel’s amendment, Foreign Affairs as well as the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence would also have to receive the same briefing, increasing the members of Congress in the know.

4. No war with Iran.

Given the drumbeat for war with Iran that occaisonally courses through Congress, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is taking no chances. In his amendment, Conyers seeks to add language to the NDAA clarifying that nothing in the law shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran. A similar provision passed unanimously during last year’s debate.

5. Require DOD to let everyone know how much Iraq and Afghanistan cost.

Rep. James Lewis (D-SC) thinks the American people have the right to know just how much the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost them personally over the last decade. Should his amendment pass, the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the head of the Internal Revenue Service, would have to place on the Pentagon’s website a figure displaying the cost to each individual taxpayer for the two wars. Recent estimates show that the two wars could end up costing the U.S. up to $6 trillion.

6. Speed up the immigration process for veterans of conflicts in the 1990s.

After 9/11, immigrants to the United States who chose to serve in the military and retired honorably were given the opportunity to speed up the process of their naturalization for them and their families. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have teamed up to introduce an amendment to stretch that provision back in time to provide the same benefits for those who served in contingency operations such as Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo in the 1990s.

7. Block sales of tear gas to countries experiencing democracy movements.

One of the frequent complaints seen during the Arab Spring wave of protests was that U.S. companies were producing the tear gas that government forces hurled at demonstrators. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)’s amendment would change that, barring the sale of tear gas and other riot control items to countries under going democracy movements. The only way that could be overridden, under the amendment, would be if the Secretary of Defense provided written justification to the Congress.

8. Ban arms purchases from Russia so long as they sell to Syria.

The Russian government has been one of the most stalwart supporters of the Syrian government over the past two years, even as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has turned his country’s guns on thousands of civilians. Russian weapons maker Rosoboronexport has likewise continued to count Assad as a loyal customer. Under a bipartisan amendment from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Department of Defense would be banned from purchasing equipment from Rosoboronexport unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that new anti-aircraft missiles haven’t been shipped to Syria and that no new arms contracts had been signed by the Russia and the Syrian government.