Donald Trump is going to be impeached by Democrats in the House of Representatives, but that hasn’t stopped the president and his GOP allies from getting a huge legislative win on defense spending.
The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, giving Trump just about everything he wanted and very little that he didn’t.
Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2019
There were worries that the Democrats would balk at supporting the bill because it didn’t prevent Trump from spending money on the border wall. That didn’t happen and the president has a right to crow about it.
Several Democrat-backed proposals that would have tied the president’s hand or limited his power did not make it in the final version of the bill. Among the things the bill doesn’t do:
There is no provision blocking Trump from diverting funds appropriated for military construction to border wall projects
There is no requirement for Trump to seek a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to take action against Iran.
There is no ban on transferring more prisoners to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
No restriction on Trump’s rules limiting the service of transgender troops
Needless to say, liberals are up in arms about the Democrats’ “cave” to Trump.
Likewise, Joe Cirincione, a former House Armed Services staffer who is now president of the nonproliferation organization Ploughshares Fund, said in a tweet Monday that the House Democrats “got completely rolled.”
House Democratic leadership has “a lot of explaining to do on why they caved on every single national security policy,” he said. “Looks weak.”
Yet Adam Smith, the Washington Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee and who led the House conferees, has seemed resigned to losing so many battles in conference and recently suggested it was the product of political reality.
“I’ve been told consistently over the course of the last two or three months that I just have to negotiate harder,” Smith said at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday. “I was like, ‘Can I do that? How does that work exactly? Can you spell that out to me? Do I, like, hold my breath? Do I, like, physically attack?’ They are where they are, OK? And you know, you have to respect that.”
There is very little grumbling from Republicans. Conservatives were generally pleased with the military family provisions in the bill, which include a big pay boost for soldiers and the creation of a new “tenant bill of rights” for military families, and directed more money in the fiscal 2020 budget for contractor oversight and tenant advocacy programs. The parental leave provision, while opposed by some, wasn’t considered worth blowing up the entire bill to stop.
The measure passed the House by a whopping 377-48, which, given what is transpiring on impeachment, seems miraculous. In truth, congressmen are first and foremost politicians and nothing makes a politician look quite as good as bringing the goodies home for Christmas.