In Defense of Defense

This post has been updated for formatting and to correctly state former senators must wait two years, not one, to become lobbyists.

United States “Spends to Defend”

SOURCE: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, April 2016. Data are for 2015. Compiled by PGPF. NOTE: Figures are in U.S. dollars, converted from local currencies using market exchange rates.

To ensure America continues to spend more on defense than the next seven highest spending countries–combined–Congress has passed, with moderate fanfare, a $619,000,000,000 “defense policy” bill, according to The Hill.

The Republican-dominated House got plenty of Democratic votes for a blowout 375-34 vote on Friday.

The bill would authorize a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

[our emphasis]

OCO is another sneaky way for the President to blow American money on death and destruction without formally declaring war. It’s better for everybody this way, because that usually involves droning innocent people (or people in hospitals, or people not in war zones who we have decided should be executed).

Not at War

U.S. Bombs Hospital–UPDATE

Droning Africans: UPDATE

Congress made sure to include some popular provisions, like raises for the troops, which can apparently also come from the OCO. (If you make it complicated enough, the little people won’t ask where all their confiscated income is going.)

Another $8.3 billion from the OCO account — $3.2 billion more than Obama requested — would be used for base budget requirements such as a pay raise for troops and troop increases.

The troop pay raise would be 2.1 percent, above the president’s request for a 1.6 percent pay raise.

You get more than you even asked for, Obama! Merry Christmas non-exclusionary winter holiday! Ho ho ho! What $20,000,000,000,000 national debt???

According to non-partisan PopVox, the Senate version of the bill has 20% constituent approval.

defense

(Yellow indicates disapproval.)

Senate Bill 2943 (above) has been kicking around since earlier this year and approved at least once: on June 14 the Senate gave it an 85-13 vote of approval after the House voted “yes” by 277-147 in May. Obama threatened to veto that measure because it apparently undermined his capabilities to clear out Guantanamo Bay.

Politico: [The House bill] adds $3.2 billion over the president’s budget request in war funds to mitigate readiness shortfalls in the Pentagon’s base budget.

[our emphasis]

Other changes on the horizon:

As in previous years, the bill would bar transferring detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S., virtually guaranteeing the president’s pledge to close the prison will go unfulfilled.

(Politico)

This means Obama will have to continue removing the prisoners extra-legally, as he has done throughout his eight years in office. Fortunately, only “at least twelve” of those (imprisoned without trial) suspected terrorists who were freed have engaged in terrorism as of June, according to Washington Post.

The Obama administration believes that at least 12 detainees released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have launched attacks against U.S. or allied forces in Afghanistan, killing about a half-dozen Americans, according to current and former U.S. officials.

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One snag in negotiations was whether women would be required to register for the draft. In the final bill, they are reportedly not.

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GOP dinosaur John McCain, 80, who was re-elected last month to a sixth six-year term as U.S. Senator from Arizona and sponsored S. 2943, reportedly looked up from his Syria defense hearing pastime of online poker to congratulate his colleagues:

“I am tremendously proud of this NDAA,” [McCain] said. “Thanks to these provisions and many more, the NDAA will enable our troops to rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world.”

(Politico)

Will he pull the Senate votes together again???

Not all House members were completely satisfied. Although House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) praised the fact that the bill “stops the layoffs of military personnel,” he will look to President-elect Donald Trump to demand a “supplemental spending request” next year:

Image result

No relation to Eliza.

That’s not nearly enough,” Thornberry said of the [GOP-offered $3.2 billion over Obama’s initial request] increase. “And my great hope is that the new incoming administration will submit to Congress a supplemental request that can really get about the job of rebuilding the military, which is so essential.”

[our emphasis]

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But don’t think our hardworking Congress people are working themselves to death.

The Hill heard from lawmakers last week that although some important measures had still not been ironed out, the hope of “getting out of work early for vacation” was in the air:

[Kevin] McCarthy [(R-CA)] said House lawmakers will finish two must-pass items left on their 2016 agenda — a short-term government-funding bill and a water resources bill — next week. 
 
McCarthy predicted the House would clear a measure to keep the government funded by Thursday, though so far such a measure has not been released. Lawmakers have until Dec. 9 to move legislation to keep the government operating and avoid a shutdown.

[our emphasis]

Well hopefully we can rush through the temporary “continuing government funding resolution” to keep our pathological need to spend at record levels so that, despite record tax revenue ($3,270,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2016 KA-CHING!!!) we still leave the little people on the hook for $500 billion to $1 trillion in deficit for the year!!

The Hill notes that while both houses of Congress could conceivably rush through the latest financial mortgage on the country’s future, as well as “water resources,” “medical innovation” and temporary “extended legal status for some illegal immigrants” and get off of “work” for a well-deserved three-week sloth fest, there is still potential for someone to screw up this “good thing they got going on.”

[Representatives and Senators make over triple the national median income. Plus benefits. Plus pensions. Plus stocks that do 6% better (House) and 10% better (Senate), on average, than those of the little people.]

Any senator could use the Senate rules to drag out the upper chamber’s procedural clock and eat up days of debate time. Though no lawmaker has publicly threatened to do so, the move would easily force senators to stay in town past Dec. 9.
 
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it’s “possible” the Senate could wrap up early, but noted lawmakers still needed work out a deal to fund the government. 
 
“Frankly I’m not too certain it’s going to happen,” he told reporters.

[our emphasis]

(“Dirty” Harry, 77, who is retiring, may be okay with that. He lives in a Washington D.C. Ritz Carlton and must wait two years before registering as a lobbyist.)

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison

https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/114/s2943

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/308522-lawmakers-eye-early-exit-from-washington

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/308463-house-passes-619b-defense-policy-bill

https://www.rt.com/usa/346698-senate-passes-defense-bill/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/04/john-mccain-poker-iphone-syria-debate

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/defense-bill-passes-house-2016-232123

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/about-12-released-guantanamo-detainees-implicated-in-deadly-attacks-on-americans/2016/06/08/004d038e-2776-11e6-b989-4e5479715b54_story.html?utm_term=.e3c46338520c

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/308522-lawmakers-eye-early-exit-from-washington

http://freebeacon.com/issues/government-collects-3-27-trillion-taxes-fiscal-year-2016/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/members-of-congress-get-a_n_866387.html