WASHINGTON — House and Senate Democrats are trying to use the powers of Congress to block the military parade that President Trump wants to see rumble through the streets of D.C.
After attending the last Bastille Day parade in Paris back in July, Trump said that “to a large extent, because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington, down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
In November, Trump likewise praised a military parade he witnessed in China.
“The hosting of the military parade this morning was magnificent, and the world was watching. I’ve already had people calling from all parts of the world. They were all watching. Nothing you can see is so beautiful,” he said of the communist nation’s show of strength.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump “is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe” and “has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”
Defense officials have indicated that planning is underway, including possible dates that could include Veterans Day in November.
“The president is looking at a parade, OK? I owe him some options. No, I have not got those options done,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters today. “I will turn it over to the military guys who know how to do parades and we’ll put together options and we will work out everything from size to participation to cost. And when I get clear options, we will send those over to the White House.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) announced today that he’s introducing the Preparedness Before Parades Act, which states as the sense of Congress that “military parades should not be used for the personal pleasure of the president” and forbids the parade going forward unless the Defense secretary can certify to Congress that “the parade will have no effect on the military readiness or budgetary needs of the Armed Forces.”
Schneider’s bill also requires the municipality where the parade is held to approve the event at least 90 days beforehand — D.C.’s City Council has already tweeted “tanks but no tanks” — and will require that at least half of the parade costs come out of Executive Office of the President’s budget.
“After more than a decade and a half of combat and years of unnecessary budget dysfunction, we are stretching our military to the breaking point,” the congressman said in a statement. “I have severe concerns about the cost, diversion of resources, and effect on readiness of a large-scale parade seemingly conceived only to please the whims of the president. The best way to honor our men and women in uniform is by supplying the training, equipment, and support they need to succeed on the battlefield and get them back home safely. This bill ensures our military leaders are consulted and that any parades do not distract from their critical missions.”
In the Senate, Ben Cardin (D-Md.) sent a letter to colleagues asking that they support a bill preventing “grand-scale parades as a ‘show of force’” and also limiting “the impact of national military parades …on military readiness.”
“Having seen multiple training deaths, as well as ship collisions in the past year, preventing such a parade would save desperately needed operations and maintenance resources for mission-related fighting two wars abroad. It also will ensure that our military personnel that volunteer to sacrifice for our nation will be able to spend their limited free time with loved ones in their communities that they live in, work in, and not in travel needlessly to our nation’s capital to appease the president,” states the letter.
“We all honor the brave men and women of our military, but there are much more effective ways of achieving this than wasting millions of dollars we could better spend on our troops.”
The 1991 Gulf War victory parade ordered by President George H.W. Bush cost $12 million. Eighty military machines were included in the parade.
Cardin’s short bill says that “funds available to the Department of Defense may not be obligated or expended for any exhibition or parade of military forces and hardware for review by the President outside of authorized military operations or activities.”