Those whose lives are bound to the fate of the annual defense policy bill can rest easy for a while, but then must gird their loins for a tough patch right before Christmas, if Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, is right.
“We’ve done it in December before, and we’ll do it in December again,” he said. As someone who has covered such Christmas bills several times, I can only express my condolences to those who will be involved.
In the House, Smith offered this grim assessment of the NDAA: “Sage grouse… It’s the biggest problem we may have.” It’s not the first year this whacky policy issue has raised its feathered head in the House of Representatives. Similar language was introduced last year. Veterans will remember, of course, that the sage grouse is not alone in this battle. The lesser prairie chicken flies along.
Western Republicans, always with an eye on the federal government’s pernicious encroachments on local property rights and on federal regulations in general, inserted language about the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse into the NDAA. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, has reliably led the Democrats’ opposition to the bird-brained language (Sorry, couldn’t resist. The Editor). Here’s what she said last year during debate on the topic:
“The prairie chicken has not attacked our citizens, threatened our allies, or disrupted our military operations. Listing the sage grouse as endangered—which is a scientific decision not within the purview of Congress—will have absolutely no effect on Department of Defense operations.
“The worst that anyone can say about the prairie chicken is that it’s not really a chicken, but a grouse. This amendment has no place in the NDAA, and I urge my colleagues to oppose it.”
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reminded Congress of its obligation to fund the federal government during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. Funding runs out in eight days. What happens when Congress passes a Continuing Resolution instead of an appropriations bill? Carter offered a few examples:
“For example, even a short-term CR slows our shipbuilding program, which is line appropriated, thereby preventing the Navy from moving forward on key programs and capabilities. And it gets worse after three months – for example, the FY 2017 defense budget quadrupled funding for our European Reassurance Initiative in order to help deter Russian aggression, but a continuing resolution extending past December would undermine our ability to build up prepositioned stocks of equipment and warfighting gear in the countries of our NATO allies. That would have great strategic consequences.”