Choosing to do something is an action. But, sometimes, so is choosing to not do something.
That’s generally true with Congress. Which is why it’s always instructive to consider what lawmakers opt to exclude from legislation. The recently passed 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is no different.
Left out of the compromise version of the bill that passed the Senate just hours before the upper chamber adjourned for the holidays were some provisions whose exclusion isn’t very surprising. But there are a few that might furrow your brow.
First, the not surprising group:
- “Designation of Department of Defense senior official for facilitating the transfer of individuals detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”
- “Prohibition on the use of funds for recreational facilities for individuals detained at Guantanamo”
- “Prohibition on transfer or release of individuals detained at Guantanamo to Yemen”
Given the political firestorm that is Gitmo and detainee policy, it’s not shocking that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., left such debates for another day.
Then there are the ones that fall into the surprising category:
- “Sense of Congress on improvised explosive devices”
- “Assessment of nuclear weapons program of the People’s Republic of China”
Those are surprising because one is merely a non-binding statement reflecting lawmakers’ collective opinion about an issue. It changes nothing, alters no funding line, and ushers in no new policies. And what lawmaker resists a little China threat warning?!
Here’s one that raises an eyebrow, given that both chambers voted on the NDAA less than a year before many lawmakers will face re-election challenges:
- “Sense of Congress to maintain a strong National Guard and Military Reserve force”
Seems like a no-brainer. Everyone wins.
One final category of excluded provisions is sure to drive good-government types crazy:
- “Cost estimates for nuclear weapons”
- “Report on plans for the disposition of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle fleet”
- “Report on long-term costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom”
- “Determination and disclosure of transportation costs incurred by Secretary of Defense for congressional trips outside the United States”
- “Cost of wars”
There’s a little something for just about every group on the political spectrum in that category — which means there’s something damaging for most groups.
(Editor’s Note: All direct citations taken from Joint Explanatory Statement that accompanied the final version of the 2014 NDAA, as released by the House and Senate Armed Services committees.)
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