This Week in Congress

The House is in session Monday through Thursday. They will be considering S. 2155, legislation making changes to the Dodd-Frank bill. This was the bill Senator Rand Paul attempted to attach Audit the Fed to in the Senate. There was interest in offering Audit the Fed as an amemdent to the bill, but the House Rules Committee did not even publish any procedure for filing amendments to the bill, a bizarre action that suggests they do not want any amendments.

The House will also consider H.R. 5515, the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. This year’s NDAA authorizes spending $639.1 billion, plus $69 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations, plus $8.9 billion in mandatory defense spending for a total of $717.0 billion.

The bill provides $6.3 billion for “European Deterrence Initiative" which will place more U.S. troops in Europe to deter Russian Aggression. It also takes a number of steps against Russia, including $250 million for lethal aide to Ukraine.

It also calls for a government strategy to confront China including joint exercises with Japan, Australia and India.

It continues military intervention in Syria.

It creates a Defense Partnership to counter Iran, and calls for new U.S. military presence in the region to prepare for war with Iran. It also calls for increased readiness in Korea to prepare for war with North Korea.

Campaign for Liberty has cosigned the following letter in support of some amendments to the NDAA:

Dear Chairman Sessions and Ranking Member McGovern,

The undersigned organizations may not agree on many things, but we all agree on this: The United States must curb wasteful and ineffective spending at the Pentagon. Doing so will save billions of valuable tax dollars and help make America safer with the hard decisions our national security requires.

As you prepare to consider the rule managing floor debate on H.R. 5515, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2019, we encourage you to make the following amendments in order:

●      #38 – Burgess, Lee (CA), Lance, DeFazio, Jones, Welch, Lewis (MN), Schakowsky:  Requires a report ranking all military departments and Defense Agencies in order of how advanced they are in achieving auditable financial statements as required by law.

●      #209 – Yarmuth: Requires the Department of Defense to provide estimates of enduring costs funded with Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding as part of its budget submissions to Congress.

●      #225 – Lee (CA), Lewis (MN), Norman: Instructs the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to Congress a report on how funds authorized for overseas contingency operations were ultimately used.

●      #226 - Lee (CA): Limits defense contractor pay and requires a report on the number of employees on contractor compensation.

●      #230 – Lee (CA) Lewis (MN): Reduces Overseas Contingency Operations by $9 billion.

●      #258 – Polis, Lee (CA), Duncan (TN): Reduces Pentagon spending by 1 percent, excluding personnel and medical programs.

●      #281 – Graves: Requires the Secretary of Defense to report on how to save $2 billion in Commissary and Exchange programs

●      #300 – Aguilar: Amends existing nuclear weapons and delivery platform reporting requirement to include 20-year estimate of the “total lifecycle costs.”

●      #330 – Norman: Requires the Office of Management and Budget to keep a separate account for overseas contingency operations and the accounts for the Department of Defense.

●      #331 – Norman: Ensures not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees an updated version of the October 2017 report on ‘‘Department of Defense Infrastructure Capacity.”

●      #332 – Norman, Blumenauer, Lee (CA), Schweizer: Ensures no later than 90 days after enactment, the Secretary of the Air Force shall publicly disclose the total dollar amount of any B-21 contracts.

●      #341 – Duncan (TN), Polis, Jones: Calls for the Secretary of Defense to submit a report regarding awards and commendations presented to any military personnel for cost-saving ideas during the prior fiscal year and regarding how the Secretary plans to expand and streamline such awards programs for cost-saving ideas.

●      #402 – Nolan: Strikes Title XV (Overseas Contingency Operations).

●      #431 – Lee (CA), Holmes-Norton: Strikes underlying language on military parade originally proposed by the President and inserts prohibition on use of funds for such parade.

●      #432 – Biggs: Reduces Pentagon spending in absence of submitted financial statements or qualified audit opinions.

●      #439 – Ellison, Norman: Requires the Secretary of Defense to identify how programs funded through OCO will be funded in future years, which will help the Pentagon identify programs that it considers an enduring need that should be funded in the base budget.

●      #479 – Schneider: Requires the Secretary of Defense to certify the military parade originally proposed by the President will have no effect on readiness.

●      #490 -- Schrader: Requires the Chief Management Officer to look at savings across the board, not just at support functions at the Defense Department, as part of an effort to reduce costs by 25 percent.

●      #492 – Sanford, Lee (CA): Codifies criteria developed by OMB in 2010 to clarify when military spending should be designated as contingency operations and properly be part of the Overseas Contingency Operations budget.

●      #505 – Lewis (MN): Requires that all procurement and Research & Defense programs that were not requested in the President’s Budget Request be fully authorized in the NDAA before funds can be appropriated on them; it also establishes a waiver process for this requirement.

●      #506 – Schrader, Welch, Rooney: Requires the Defense Department to report to Congress on ways they are finding and implementing savings laid out by the 2016 Defense Business Board report and for alternative recommendations to achieve cost savings.

●      #546 -- McClintock: Strikes the prohibition on a round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Allows entities accepting closed bases to pay for environmental review and mitigation costs.

We support the above list amendments because they seek to accomplish the following worthy goals:

Shine a light on OCO abuse.  Congress and the Department of Defense have repeatedly used the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account as a slush fund for pet projects as well as enduring requirements that should be funded in the so-called “base” budget. Recently, the Department estimated $30 billion of OCO funds were used for base budget needs in a single year.

Reduce waste and provide oversight of wasteful or excessive Pentagon spending.  The Pentagon budget is currently greater than at any other time since the end of World War II, including the Vietnam War and the peak of the Reagan buildup. Year after year, hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Pentagon go unaccounted for or wasted. These amendments seek to curtail and shine a light on these abusive practices.

As groups dedicated to the good stewardship of every taxpayer dollar, we ask that you make these amendments in order so that the full House of Representatives can debate them.

One good thing the House is doing  is voting on S.204, legislation giving patients with terminal illnesses the right to use potentially helpful treatments that are unapproved by the FDA.

The House will also consider a number of bills under suspension, including:

1. H.R. 1972—allows veterans to waive co-payment requirements if the VA is late in informing veterans they owe a co-payment, because vets should not suffer for VA incompetence.

2. H.R. 3642—creates a pilot program for the VA to provide care at non-VA facilities for veterans who are victims of sexual assault.

3. H.R. 3832—authorizes the VA to work with State prescription monitoring services to prevent opioid abuse—in other words it puts the VA in the war on pain patients.

4. H.R. 4245—requires the VA to submit documents to Congress regarding progress of the VA electronic health records project.

5. H.R. 4958—gives the VA beneficiaries a cost of living increase, which is odd since I thought there was no inflation.

6. H.R. 5215—prohibits employees who misused VA purchasing cards from serving as purchase card holders or approving officials. Good idea but why wasn’t this already being done?

7. H.R. 5418—requires the VA to award vendors in its prime vendor program to multiple regional vendors instead of one national vendor.

8. H.R. 4334—imposes reporting requirements regarding care of women veterans by VA facilities.

9. H.R. 5682—creates new federal programs to reduce recidivism.

10. S. 292—creates a national childhood cancer registry of specimens and samples from childhood cancer patients. These registries are well-intentioned, but they raise significant questions about medical privacy and patient consent.

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