From base closures to troop meditation, defense budget amendments are rolling in – Washington Examiner


House lawmakers are poised to decide whether the military should shutter unused bases, whether troops should meditate before going to war, and make decisions on a wide variety of other issues as defense budget amendments poured in Friday.

Over 90 amendments were filed for the upcoming House floor vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, a mammoth annual bill that sets military policy and priorities.

The amendment process is a chance for rank-and-file lawmakers to put their stamp on the must-pass legislation if they can get enough support on the floor once the NDAA goes up for a vote. The House had yet to set a date on Friday.

Here are some of the highlights of amendments posted so far by the chamber’s Rules Committee:

  • The top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, of Washington, wants to allow the Defense Department to close excess military bases, something the department has requested and that could save billions of dollars. Armed Services blocked the Base Realignment and Closure process in the current version of the NDAA but Smith is hoping to rally support to chance that on the House floor.
  • An amendment filed by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., would block the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey until that country cooperates with a criminal investigation into an incident in May when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail beat up protesters. The incident, caught on video, caused outrage on Capitol Hill. A related amendment by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., would impose a visa ban on the security staff who were involved.
  • Should troops be taught to meditate before heading to Syria or Afghanistan? Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., wants to create a pilot program that would teach “mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques” in advance of trips to combat zones. The legislation also requires a report from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the effectiveness of the program.
  • An amendment by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., makes it Congress’ stated position that noncitizen troops who enlisted as part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, should not be deported. Some lawmakers have been riled up by reports that the Pentagon might curtail the program and rescind enlistment contracts, putting about 1,000 troops at risk of deportation.
  • China would be barred from participating in the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, billed as the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, under an amendment by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla. It says Mattis would not invite any country to the Pacific Ocean exercise that is “engaged in actions that limit the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” a clear swipe at China as tensions run high in that region.
  • Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts want to repeal and replace the U.S.’s current war authorization. Three successive presidential administrations have waged war overseas on two Sept. 11-era authorizations for the use of military force. Their amendment repeals both and consolidates them into a single AUMF for the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

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