On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $576 billion defense spending bill. The vote was 282 to 138 with a majority of Republicans in favor and a majority of Democrats opposed. All 10 Georgia Republicans voted yes. Georgia Democrats split, with Representatives John Lewis (GA-5) and Hank Johnson (GA-4) opposed, Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-2) in favor, and Rep. David Scott (GA-13) not voting.
Here is what Georgia Republicans are saying.
Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-7)
“It’s always vitally important to ensure those serving and defending America have the resources they need, but as we continue to be confronted with threats across the globe and on American soil, this bill is as much about national security as it is about good government. Allocating these funds through a transparent appropriations process is what our Founders intended, and with 75 amendments to this legislation considered on the House floor from both sides of the aisle and many hours of debate, I am very proud of the robust and comprehensive process in which this crucial legislation moved forward.”
Rep. Tom Price (GA-6)
“As recent events testify, we need a robust military to defend the homeland from enemies foreign and domestic. This legislation will supply our military with the tools to fight radical Islam and to defend our nation’s fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and preserve America’s indispensable role as a beacon of freedom to the world.”
Rep. Tom Graves (GA-14)
“In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, it’s clear that we are a nation at war with militant Islamic terrorism, and that’s why this legislation is so important. These bills give law enforcement new tools to fight terrorist radicalization in America and provide our brave men and women in uniform with the resources they need to defeat the enemy.”
Rep. Doug Collins (GA-9)
“This year’s defense appropriations bill ensures a robust and ready military by denying the President’s proposed troop reduction, and funding necessary readiness programs that will keep our troops prepared for both combat and peacetime missions…Counter-terrorism programs will be continued and strengthened to combat the ever-growing threat of ISIS. H.R. 5293 also continues to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and prevents new facilities from being built on U.S. soil to house them. Our service men and women will see a well-deserved 2.1% pay increase, and new healthcare programs and medical facility upgrades, including $125 million allocated for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research.”
Unfortunately for Georgia Republicans, the version of the bill they are praising will be short lived. President Obama has issued a veto threat, primarily because the bill fails to adhere to the spending levels put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Act that was negotiated by President Obama and former House Speaker John Boehner last October. Additionally, the Obama administration “strongly objects to the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation,” as well as a gimmick that only appropriates enough money for the war fund (also known as the Overseas Operations Contingency fund) until next April, forcing the next president to request supplemental funding almost as soon as he or she takes office. The Senate will take up the bill next, just days after passing the National Defense Authorization Act on a bipartisan vote. At least six Democrats need to sign on for the Senate version of the defense spending bill to avoid a filibuster. Knowing that, the upper chamber is much more likely to pass a bill acceptable to the Democrats and President Obama.
The controversial amendments that Congressman Woodall mentioned will be front and center when the bill is considered by the Senate. Some of the most highly contested ones failed, with the House rejecting a ban on undocumented immigrants serving in the military, a tightening of surveillance regulations, and a requirement that Congress pass a new AUMF in order to fund the fight against ISIS. The House did, however, pass two amendments that will hamstring President Obama if he tries to close down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay before he leaves office. One amendment prevents all transfers out of the prison camp while the other prohibits funds from being used to survey locations on the mainland where the prisoners could be transferred. It is unlikely that Senate Democrats will think too fondly of either provision when the bill is considered in the upcoming weeks.