WASHINGTON – The House Rules Committee held a hearing Monday evening to discuss a bill that aims to provide additional funding and resources for all branches of the military, but budget caps and a lack of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals have prevented the bill from passing.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney said arbitrary attempts to control the nation’s increasing debt have stopped the bill’s passing, despite a vote of 344 to 81 in support of the bill.
“Our most important constitutional obligation is to fund armed forces,” said Cheney. “Fundamentally, we’ve got to make sure they have the resources to do what we’ve asked them to.”
Known as the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA), the bipartisan bill has garnered wide-spread support in the House and Senate, and would provide over $600 billion in defense funding.
Among the bill’s enactments are to ensure troops receive adequate health care while overseas, help military spouses meet the financial expenses required to relocate, and make permanent the survivors benefit plan.
Committee members agreed that raising taxes and appealing the Budget Control Act of 2011 are among the most important caveats to passing the bill.
Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said as a matter of national security, it is essential the government receives a sizeable increase in funding.
“We need to find a way to resolve this issue so we can defend national security,” said Smith. “If we are trying to scrape up funds, it does not make sense to cut taxes.”
A lack of FDA approval for crucial medical resources has also prevented the bill from passing. For instance, a French-made drug called freeze-dried plasma is essential to clotting blood so soldiers don’t bleed out on the battlefield, but has yet to receive FDA approval.
While House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said the FDA and Department of Defense (DOD) have reached a consensus about the wording in this section of the bill, the drug cannot be administered until the FDA approves it.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said the government should be focusing funds towards medical resources like this instead of spending on military machinery such as aircraft carriers.
“If more soldiers lose their life over this (lack of access to health care), that is a real tragedy,” said Slaughter.
Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), said inefficient military recruitment tactics should also be addressed in the bill, and that the government’s volunteer protocol may work to the military’s disadvantage.
While acknowledging Collin’s complaint, House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said 70% of citizens are deemed ineligible to enlist based on circumstances such as obesity and other medical conditions, and that recruiting and retaining troops is a difficult task.
The Committee agreed that the NDAA would provide essential funding the military needs in order to uphold its many responsibilities, and that the U.S. military deserves better resources and funding for serving their country.
“I think it’s important to send a message to the men and women that risk our lives for us, that congress is with them,” Thornberry said.