The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Washington (AFP) – A sweeping defense bill that authorizes Pentagon spending passed Congress, assuring funding through 2014 while easing detainee transfers from Guantanamo and cracking down on sexual assault in the military.

The compromise legislation, which passed 84-15 with broad bipartisan support in the Senate, allocates some $552.1 billion for military spending on bases and equipment as well as troop training and resources, and allows for a one percent raise in military salaries.

The National Defense Authorization Act also provides $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations, namely the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Passage ensures an NDAA will be signed into law on time for the 53rd consecutive year, something that appeared to be in doubt earlier this month when tussles over other legislation like the recently-passed budget agreement and executive nominations stalled the defense bill.

The process angered several Republican lawmakers because in the rush to pass the measure, they were not allowed to introduce or debate key amendments.

Some Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, had wanted to attach an amendment imposing tough new economic sanctions on Iran.

In the aftermath, bipartisan negotiators from both the Senate and House of Representatives hashed out a compromise bill. Last week it won overwhelming approval from the House.

Obama has expressed support for the bill, and the White House reiterated its backing Thursday.

“Overall, the administration is pleased with the modifications and improvements contained in the bill that address most of the administration’s significant objections with earlier versions regarding these issues,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

The bill includes language that eases restrictions on the president’s ability for transferring Guantanamo detainees overseas, a potential first step toward meeting his 2008 campaign pledge to close the controversial prison for terror suspects in Cuba.

But it retains prohibitions on transferring the detainees to the United States, a provision sought by Republicans.

One of the bill’s primary authors, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, hailed its passage as “a strong bipartisan statement that, despite our differences, we can come together and accomplish important business for the good of the country.”

He also noted that legislation “makes progress toward the day we can close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.”

In the Senate, women lawmakers on both sides of the aisle led a months-long effort to crack down on sexual assault within military ranks, and their persistence will result in major changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Some 30 provisions address the problem. The bill includes a whistleblowing measure which criminalizes retaliation against those who report sex crimes, provides counsel for victims, and strips military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions.

But it notably left out an amendment by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand seeking to remove sex crime prosecutions from the military chain of command.

Democrat Gillibrand was among several lawmakers who harshly criticized military chiefs at a June hearing for failing to address the issue.

She bluntly told chastened top brass that part of the problem is that “not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.”

The NDAA marks the final major legislation of the congressional calendar.

AFP Photo/ Mark Wilson

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

James Troupis

On Monday morning, two of Wisconsin’s presidential electors and a voter sued a group of “fake electors” who sought to deceive Congress in an attempt to help then-President Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

The lawsuit, a first of its kind, was filed in state circuit court in Madison, the state’s capital, and named as defendants 10 Republicans and two others "who conspired with, aided, and abetted them," according to CBS News.

Keep reading... Show less

Fox News

Fox News is rubbing its bigotry and volatility in the faces of would-be and current advertisers, leaving them without a shred of plausible deniability as they consider a business relationship with a network that prioritizes the promotion of white supremacist conspiracy theories.

On Monday, Fox held its upfronts presentation, an industry tradition in which networks bring in advertisers and media buyers and pitch them on buying ads for the next year. It was the first time Fox has held the event in person since 2019. In the intervening years, the network has cemented its control over the Republican Party, helped to bring about and then justify the January 6, 2021, Trumpist attack on the U.S. Capitol, run a remarkably effective campaign to dissuade people from taking COVID-19 vaccines; and demolished its “news side” in favor of more propaganda.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}