Just after Noon on May 18, the House overwhelmingly adopted the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill. Before that vote, the House turned back a series of Democratic challenges to the bill, usually by strong margins.
To achieve those victories, the House Republican leadership carefully picked amendments permitted to be offered on the House floor and barred others they weren’t sure they could defeat.
Behind those choices was a sleazy and underhanded tactic: appearing to permit broad competition by carefully selecting the amendments that could be offered
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) presented the rule which outlined which amendments would be offered and which could not. He argued: “The Rules Committee, in an effort to try and be as open as possible, made in order 141 of the 240 requests. Of those 141, 49 were Republican, but 63 were Democrat amendments and 29 were bipartisan amendments.”
Accurate statement: yes. Deceptive statement: Also yes.
Among that lengthy list of 141 amendments was an amendment to ask that the remains of crewman be recovered from Antarctica and another to honor air raid wardens from World War II.
Oh, and still another to promote a Medal of Honor for a Civil War soldier.
By my count, 97 of that “blizzard” of amendments were adopted by voice vote in what are called “en bloc” amendments.
But let’s see what the leadership refused to permit.
Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have previously offered amendments to stop the war in Afghanistan. Last year, they almost prevailed, losing 204-215.
This year, they put together a careful amendment and won widespread backing from high ranking Democrats and a number of Republicans.
Fearful that McGovern-Jones might win, the GOP leadership refused to permit the amendment to come up for a vote, instead letting Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offer an amendment that would have stopped the war much more quickly and was less broadly supported.
Not surprisingly, the Lee amendment got clobbered 113-303.
Why? According to CNN: “Republicans were concerned the amendment could pass, according to two GOP congressional sources.”
And Republicans got the headline they desired: “House OKs continued war in Afghanistan.”
But Afghanistan was not the only issue on which Republicans divided to conquer.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) was primary sponsor of two amendments, one to overturn a House Armed Services Committee decision to add funds for the Los Alamos, N.M., nuclear weapons laboratory’s plutonium pit production facility and another to delay the new nuclear weapons-capable strategic bomber by 10 years.
The Los Alamos amendment would have targeted a program in only one state and Markey’s position was consistent with the recommendations of the Department of Energy and Pentagon, and, perhaps most importantly, that of the GOP-controlled House appropriations committee, which last month provided no funding for the facility.
The bomber amendment targeted a program that includes contracts in a number of states and bombers stationed at several bases. And Markey was up against the Air Force position.
Guess which amendment the GOP allowed: the bomber amendment that went down to crushing defeat
112-308 , with 81 Democrats against and almost all Republicans. The other amendment was disappeared.
Then there were missile defense amendments. Republicans were happy to let a Jared Polis (D-CO)-Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) amendment to cut about $400 million from the program go forward. Dollar cut amendments had lost badly before and this one failed 165-252 .
Two amendments that would have been tougher to beat, a John Garamendi (D-CA) amendment to block a mind-boggling idea opposed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to build a new missile defense system on the East Coast and second one by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) (both Armed Services Committee members) to bar procurement of a newer version of interceptor missiles deployed on the West Coast until the system achieves a successful flight test were blocked.
There were other amendments that the GOP stiffed. Certainly helps when you can pick and choose your amendments.
So much for the promised Republican transparency when the party can instead shut off debate and stifle the voice of the American people.