Senate Democrat, GOP Leaders Mum About Red Lines in Annual Defense Bill

By Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
July 19, 2023Updated: July 19, 2023

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) were unclear about what red lines their parties have in the $876.8 billion annual defense policy bill.

The Democrat-controlled Senate began on July 19 to vote on what will be a total of 51 amendments—21 each from Democrats and Republicans and nine bipartisan ones—to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The voting is set to go into next week.

When asked by The Epoch Times what the red lines are for Senate Democrats in the NDAA, Mr. Schumer demurred.

“The bottom line is that we want to get this done without amendments that undo the bill, are dilatory in any way,” he said. “So far our Republican colleagues are cooperating.”

Mr. McConnell sidestepped when asked by The Epoch Times what the red lines are for Senate Republicans in the NDAA.

“Well, you’re asking me to predict what’s gonna happen … on the floor both this week and likely next week,” he said. “I would think at the end of the process, the NDAA will pass on a pretty strong bipartisan basis.”

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA last week mostly along party lines.

Amendments were added to the bill that prohibit the Defense Department from funding travel for women to get abortions and prohibit funding for positions related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (though an amendment to prohibit funding for DEI in the military failed).

It also included amendments addressing other culture war issues.

The abortion-related amendment was a point of contention not just among Democrats but also among Republicans.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) remarked to The Epoch Times that the GOP amendments related to culture war items will mostly not be in the Senate NDAA.

“I think it’ll probably be a totally different bill when we get it back later this year,” she said.

On July 19, in response to a question from The Epoch Times, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expressed confidence that the culture war amendments will not be hard to reconcile.

“What’s hard to reconcile is that you don’t focus on defense. I’ve watched the Democrats when they in the majority spend a lot of money in the Defense Department on things that have nothing to do with training our women and men,” Mr. McCarthy said.

“We have reframed and [gone] back to [the] way that has made America strong.”

The House NDAA also includes the latest technology to confront China and undoes the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Both the Senate and House NDAA include a 5.2 percent pay raise for service members, the biggest in more than 20 years.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after the House passed its NDAA that the measure will enable the United States to compete with the China threat “from boosting deterrence to securing our supply chain.”

“Our nation’s freedom hinges upon American service members having the resources and weapons they need to keep our nation safe.

“Providing for our national defense is the most consequential responsibility that the U.S. Constitution granted Congress—the National Defense Authorization Act remains a vital part of fulfilling that commitment to our service members and our nation,” he added.

Speaking on the House floor on July 19 morning, Mr. Schumer blasted the House and claimed it was impeding getting the NDAA passed through Congress.

The Senate NDAA consists of measures to confront the China threat, legislation dealing with artificial intelligence, and an amendment by Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to combat the fentanyl crisis in the United States.

The fentanyl-related amendment would give President Joe Biden greater authority to crack down on China and Mexico, both of which have greatly contributed to the U.S. drug crisis.

Additionally, the Senate NDAA has a measure that prohibits the president from withdrawing from NATO without congressional consent. Former President Donald Trump reportedly wanted to withdraw the United States from the alliance.

In 2021, the leading cause of opioid-related deaths was fentanyl—with 70,601 such deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 50,000 pounds of fentanyl was seized by Customs and Border Protection at the southern border in 2022.

“China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Seizures of fentanyl sourced from China average less than one kilogram in weight, and often test above 90 percent concentration of pure fentanyl.”