By Joshua Withrow
The Senate is expected to spend the bulk of the upcoming week on their edition of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill that outlines what Congress is allowed to spend on most aspects of defense for Fiscal Year 2014. This includes the DoD, some of the Dept. of Energy, Veterans’ Affairs, and “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) spending, which is funding for the drawdown in Afghanistan.
The Senate NDAA bill is S. 1197, sponsored by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI). The House already passed their version, H.R. 1960, back in June.
One of the main problems fiscal conservatives have with the 2014 NDAA is that it funds defense at a level that ignores the automatic sequestration cuts scheduled to take place in 2014. The CBO scores the current Senate NDAA bill at $545 billion in base defense spending (not including OCO), whereas the sequester levels would be $498.1 billion.
While sequestration is certainly not the best instrument for making rational budget cuts, the Budget Control Act is the only spending reduction of any kind that Republicans have achieved since gaining the House majority in 2010. Allowing Congress to bypass even these modest spending reductions belies Republicans’ claim that they are serious actually addressing our obscenely large national debt by balancing the budget.
Unfortunately, the talk of the town is that Senate Democrats are likely to make a bad bill worse by attaching a number of unrelated (“non-germane”) amendments to the NDAA. Because it is considered a “must-pass” bill (Congress has passed an NDAA each of the past 50 years), Harry Reid and company may use it as an opportunity to try to get bad policies passed along with it. These could include the “Marketplace Fairness Act” (internet sales tax), and even an increase in the minimum wage. The Marketplace Fairness Act, in particular, is a dangerous and unconstitutional policy that conservatives should be ready to fight against tooth and nail.