"4 Amendments That Could Make The House Defense Bill More Indefensible"
Debate is set to begin on Wednesday among the full House of Representatives over if and how to amend their version of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Nearly 300 amendments were submit to the House Rules Committee, which polices the terms of the debate.
Many of the more concerning provisions within the NDAA are already baked in, thanks to the Republican control of the House Armed Services Committee. President Obama has already issued his now-annual veto threat against the NDAA for certain provisions that his administration finds unacceptable. To date, the President has signed every NDAA that has come across his desk, but that’s never a guarantee.
ThinkProgress has already highlighted some of the amendments offered that can improve the House’s bill. But there are still several amendments that, if accepted into the final bill, could render the NDAA truly indefensible:
1. Ban Gitmo detainee transfers to Yemen.
President Obama recently announced, as part of his renewed efforts to close down Guantanamo Bay, that he would lift the moratorium for transferring cleared detainees to Yemen. At present, 59 Yemeni citizens have been vetted and approved for transfer back to their home country. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) wants to prevent such a move from taking place, however, filing an amendment that would ban any use of Defense Department funds to facilitate these prisoners moving from Guantanamo back to Yemen.
2. Eliminate military aid to Pakistan.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Pakistan don’t precisely get along. He’s been declared persona non grata for his urging the Balochistan region to declare independence from Islamabad and therefore is barred from setting foot in the country. So it’s understandable that Rohrabacher submit an amendment to ban all military aid to Pakistan. In 2012, the administration spent $371.9 million in Pakistan, of which more than 95 percent went to USAID programs providing assistance to some of Pakistan’s poorest. Only $1.9 million of that was spent on aid to Pakistan’s military, making it unclear why Rohrabacher sees the need to pass a full ban into law.
3. Ban same-sex marriages on DOD facilities.
The White House is already concerned with a provision in the NDAA that allows commanders to look the other way when servicemembers bully their gay and lesbian compatriots. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) is determined, however, to strip openly gay soldiers rights even further, introducing an amendment to prevent any same-sex marriages at all from being performed at facilities the Pentagon owns, even in states where such marriages are legal. Huelskamp offered a similar amendment to last year’s NDAA, which was unfortunately signed into law.
4. Prohibit equal benefits for same-sex married couples serving in the military.
Huelskamp also wants to prevent spouses of gays and lesbians serving in the military from receiving the same benefits that straight couples do. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta signed a memorandum in February ordering the Department to begin providing certain benefits to all couples in the Armed Forces, regardless of orientation, beginning immediately. Huelskamp’s amendment would prevent that memo from being fully implemented.