Thursday the House passed the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 350-80. My advise is if your are going to read the 4,000+ page bill -which I doubt many of the 430 House members did – that you hold your nose while doing so because it stinks. I’m not talking about the money involved or the programs that it funds – I’ll leave that to other liberals whom I may or may not agree with – I’m talking of two (one totally unrelated) provisions that weaken America’s military readiness and democracy.
This bill traditionally has many “authors” and it appears this year was no exception. I’m sure there are a lot of boondoggles that help a particular Representative’s district while delivering nothing for the American people, but again, I’ll leave that analysis and criticisms to others. My two complaints are much more harmful and dangerous than simply wasting money. This bill still has to get a minimum of 60 votes in the Senate before it hits President Biden’s desk. I will go so far as to recommend that if it reaches his desk as it now stands that he veto it.
The first provision in the bill that I find unacceptable is Kevin McCarthy’s stunt playing to the far right of his caucus in his desperation to be Speaker: ending the COVID vaccine mandate for troops. Vaccination against disease is the first step in troop readiness. If the troops are either dead or seriously ill all the equipment and weapons systems in the world won’t matter. It’s really that simple! If we have learned nothing else from Russia’s military failures in Ukraine it is that dead or sick troops can’t fight. Military power is relative and as we weaken our military (the lynchpin of NATO) we strengthen Russia’s. I know that anti-vax thing plays well with the MAGA crowd but if you want to be a leader then it is time to put on your big boy pants and thinking cap Kevin.
The second totally unacceptable portion of the bill was buried by who knows who. There is a provision that makes the business ventures and income of SCOTUS spouses secret information. You know, like the fact that Ginny Thomas (Mrs. Clarence Thomas) has made million from radical right wing causes for decades now. What this has to do with the military is beyond me and I’ll bet you too. Why is something that benefits a maximum of nine people buried in a must pass bill? It doesn’t pass my smell test, how about yours?
The first excuse you will get for these provisions is that this is a must pass bill that came down to the eleventh hour. I will grant you that funding the military is a must. As to the eleventh hour; is it really too much to ask people who make a minimum wage of $174,000 a year to be able to use a calendar?
The next excuse is that the House needed two-thirds because it went outside regular order to pass the bill on Thursday which necessitated Republican support and the only way they could get it is if they caved on the vaccination issue. (“Ginny’s Free Pass” was intended to be buried but some good reporting brought it too light.) Again, I offer the calendar.
The next excuse is that the bill had to be palatable enough to attract 10 or more Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. How about passing a clean funding bill and make anyone who voted against it – Republicans love to portray themselves as flag hugging, military loving, patriots – defend that vote to their voters. In fact, if I were a Democratic challenger to a Republican who voted not to fund the military, I’d use that fact in attack ads.
One last thing related to COVID. I’m writing this on the early evening of December 8th. The latest numbers on COVID show a spike. We are just short of 60,000 reported daily new cases on the 14 day rolling average which I still maintain is the best readily available leading indicator.
And then members of Congress and the Supreme Court wonder why the public has little confidence in them.
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