This Week in Congress

The House is in session Tuesday through Friday. They will spend most of the week on H.R. 2500, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill authorizes a total of $733 billion. This consists of $655.9 billion in base funding plus $69 billion in Overseas Operation Funding plus $8.2 billion for programs outside of the jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee. Note that a lot of the provisions in the bill highlighted below are aimed at reversing or checking President Trump’s efforts at diplomacy. So much for the Democrats as the party of peace.

The bill requires the Secretary of Defense or any commander to report to Congress on any executive orders. It also requires the President to submit an annual report regarding the legal and policy framework for any use of force.

It also requires reports on discrepancies between DOD reports on number of civilian casualties and reports by non-governmental organizations. The bill also provides funds for an independent research center to examine the military’s “standards, processes, and procedures” relating to civilian casualties.

The bill forbids placing any new prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and authorizes transfers for Gitmo. It also strengthens the requirement that the Pentagon conduct regular audits by ranking military agencies by how well they comply with audit requirements.

The bill authorizes $4.5 billion to fund the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Services. It also provides funds to “develop” the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense.” (After the U.S. taxpayer has finally developed these ministries can we maybe end America’s longest war?)

The bill also authorizes the U.S. Government to make payments for deaths caused by U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. (Here’s an idea why don’t we stop causing deaths in those countries by bringing the troops home?)

The bill provides an increase of $74.3 million for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), reversing President Trump’s reduction in funding of the EDI and bringing the total to $6.5 billion. This money is used to counter Russian interference in elections.

The bill also requires the development of a strategy to counter Russian interference in the Black Sea. The bill also prohibits federal funding for any activity that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

As if continuing the wars in the Mid-East and fanning the flames of the new Cold War weren’t enough, the bill also ensures that U.S. troops will be the first to die if hostilities break out between North and South Korea by forbidding the use of funds to draw down troop levels unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that it is in the security interest of the U.S. and will not harm the outposts of our allies in the region-specifically South Korea and Japan.

The bill also requires Congress to report on Chinese interference in U.S. elections and develop a strategy to counter Chinese efforts to interfere in elections.

The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the suicide rate among the armed services complete with metrics on how to reduce suicide.

The bill requires military construction to be able to withstand climate change and authorizes $25 million for the Conservation Investment Program. It also requires military facilities to use 25% renewable energy by 2025 and study the feasibility of using 100% renewables.

In a rare embrace of diplomacy, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to engage in dialogue with Russia, China, and North Korea aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear war.

It also authorizes $20 million in civic education grants—which I am sure will go to programs that present a balanced view of American foreign policy.

The House will also consider several bills under suspension of the rules, including:

  1. H.R. 2162—Reduces mortgages of Federal Housing Assistance recipients if they complete a financial literacy course.

  1. H.R. 2402—Requires the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation report on the challenges faced by rural small businesses. This could result in support for repealing some regulations.

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