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Congresswoman Betty McCollum Extension of Remarks H.R. 1960 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

June 14, 2013
Statements For the Record

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply disappointed that I must rise in opposition to H.R. 1960, the FY14 Defense Authorization Act. America’s men and women in uniform deserve, and Congress must pass, legislation that provides them with the resources they need to preserve our national security.  Unfortunately, this bill does not reflect the range of 21st-Century threats the United States must prepare for, nor does it reflect the urgent fiscal crisis this Congress must address. What this $638 billion defense bill does reflect, however, are misplaced priorities.

Due to sequestration, Congress has been forced to impose deep cuts to programs all across our Federal government, including many aimed at protecting vulnerable seniors and children from economic hardship.  Moreover, the across-the-board cuts will have an adverse impact on our military readiness due to the furloughs of critical defense personnel. These misguided fiscal policies have already had a real and severe impact on American families.

With every sector of the government being downsized, it is fundamentally unfair that the bill before us today still authorizes billions of dollars in wasteful Pentagon programs. One prime example of this is the National Guard’s ongoing spending spree on World Wide Wrestling and motor sports sponsorships. I offered an amendment to stop this waste of precious taxpayer dollars, but unfortunately, the Majority of House Republicans refused to support it. Authorizing $54 million on sports sponsorships that have not been proven to work shows that this Congress is addicted to spending that directly benefits special interests like NASCAR. At a time when the Pentagon plans to reduce the number of troops and issue furloughs, this is simply unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, there are several positive provisions of this bill that I do support, including the continuance of DOD clean energy programs, lifting restrictions on servicewomen’s access to reproductive health care, and preventing increases in new TRICARE fees. I am also pleased that the bill includes some provisions to address the crisis of sexual assaults in the military. For example, it strips commanding officers of their unilateral authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction and requires that service members found guilty of sexual offenses be dismissed or dishonorably discharged. Lastly, it provides legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses. Unfortunately, the underlying legislation contains too much wasteful spending and does not include several important amendments aimed at correcting the abuses to our civil liberties contained in previous Defense Authorization bills, most notably those related to Guantanamo Bay prison and indefinite detention.

One of our primary objectives today is to provide the resources and policy guidance necessary to protect our nation, while upholding the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution.  Moreover, we must exercise fiscal responsibility by making certain that every dollar we authorize today contributes to our national defense. The rejection of my common-sense amendment demonstrates that H.R. 1960 fails to meet that goal. It is time for tough choices and smart cuts that save taxpayer dollars, even at the Pentagon. Wasteful and excessive Pentagon spending is no longer acceptable as low income families, seniors, and disabled Americans to go without the critical services.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation and yield back the balance of my time.