20 September 2010

Partisan Wrangling Over Defense Authorization Bill

Republicans feel like Democrats are playing politics with the defense authorization bill, and are not happy about it.

The Senate is expected to take up the defense authorization bill next week, but top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee are promising to oppose the legislation because of its language on gays in the military and the possible insertion of an amendment on immigration.

Every year, both parties agree to pass the defense bill, even while large parts of the rest of the legislative agenda go uncompleted. For that reason, it is often viewed by senators as a convenient vehicle for other legislation they want to move through Congress - whether or not it is related to the military.

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to tack on the "American Dream Act," a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students.

Committee Republicans are not happy.

"This is an all-time low for me being in the Senate, and that's saying something," committee member Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told The Cable. "The one area that has been kept off-limits from partisan politics has been the defense of our nation."

"Obviously it's about politics," Graham continued. "You're trying to check a box with the Hispanic voters on the Dream Act . . . this is using the defense bill in a partisan fashion that hasn't been done before."

Actually, the defense bill has often been the subject of partisan wrangling. What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee's top Republican, John McCain (Ariz).

McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.

Levin told The Cable that he expects Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to file cloture on the defense bill this week, which would mean it would reach the floor early next week.

By: Brant

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